British Nigerian Tech guru and founder of the trailblazing African Science Academy, Tom Ilube was yesterday, October 25, named the most influential black person on the UK….many years after he was rejected for a graduate trainee scheme at McDonald’s for “not being good enough”
The 53-year-old philanthropist topped Powerlist 2017, the annual list of the 100 most powerful people of African and African Caribbean heritage in Britain.
Ilube claimed the number one spot for his outstanding work in education where he has demonstrably impacted thousands of lives and for his success in launching several successful technology companies. He set up the charity, African Gifted Foundation, to help transform the lives of hundreds of children on the continent.
Born in Isleworth, west London to an English mother and Nigerian father, Ilube spent his formative years bouncing between the UK, Uganda, and his dad’s country of birth. One of five siblings, he claims he was never the standout star among them. His “incredibly smart” elder brother, who recently died, studied chemistry at Oxford. His youngest brother, “easily the cleverest of the bunch”, sat his A-levels aged 15. Ilube himself did his first degree, in physics, at the University of Benin, Nigeria, and later an MBA at Cass Business School in London. He says his time in Nigeria solidified his ambitious nature.
“Nigeria is a very pushy, ambitious place with a you-can-try-anything sort of mindset,” he says. “And I think I absorbed some of that. I had a lot of that anyway, so when I came back [to Britain] I was in that mindset to achieve.”
Earlier this year, he opened the African Science Academy (ASA), Africa’s first girls-only science and technology school, based in Ghana with young women scientists attending from six countries: Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Sierra Leone and Uganda. The academy is driving Africa’s development by inspiring and unleashing the next generation of gifted scientists and engineers and hopes to admit over 200 students a year from across the continent. Reflecting on his achievements with ASA, Ilube said:
“Launching the African Science Academy is the highlight of all my work in education over the past decade. I am convinced that we have brilliant young women in African who have the potential to be tomorrow’s world class scientists and engineers.”
Ilube is also the Founder and CEO of Crossword Cybersecurity plc and was part of the founding team of pioneering internet bank Egg where he was Chief Information Officer and he persuaded Sir Tim Berners Lee to serve as an adviser to his company Garlik.
IIube founded Hammersmith Academy, which opened in September 2011 and has gone on to become one of the UK’s most innovative technology schools. After he was rejected for a graduate trainee scheme at McDonald’s for not being good enough. He sent applications to every company starting with the letter A and was turned down again and again, so he started working through the Bs and ended up working for British Airways as a programmer. From there, he headed to the London Stock Exchange in the 1980s, where he was one of few black professionals. He was conscious of this status, but not intimidated.
“I think being thrown into different environments – Nigeria, Uganda, back to the UK, off again, and back again – sort of made me quite resilient. I can go into new and different situations and not feel too daunted… I observe them with interest. Building a career in London, you would often go to places and be the only black person out of 200 people.”
Unveiling the Powerlist 2017, chosen by an independent panel of judges led by former High Court judge Dame Linda Dobbs, publisher Michael Eboda said:
“I’m incredibly proud of all of our Powerlistees this year and over the past 10 years in which we’ve published the magazine. Tom isn’t a household name, but quietly behind the scenes, he has had an incredible effect on the lives of so many people across the world.
Winners were honoured last night at the third annual Powerlist Influencers Dinner, a black-tie event sponsored by EY, which will be held at the Goldsmiths’s Hall. The keynote speech was delivered by Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. Speaking at the event, Khan said it was important to “never forget the power of positive role models”.
“I’ve seen time and time again the profound impact it can have when young people see high achievers who look like them and come from the same background. It spurs them on. It motivates them. And there is special moment when they realise that they too can succeed and fulfil their potential.”
According to Powerlist spokesperson, entrants were judged on their “ability to change lives and alter events, as demonstrated over a protracted period of time and in a positive manner,”
The Powerlist 2016 Top Ten are:
1: Tom Ilube: Founder of Crosssword Cyber Security, Africa Gifted Foundation
2: Ric Lewis: Founder/Chief Executive/Chairman, Tristan Capital Partners
3:Arlene Isaacs-Lowe: Managing Director – Head of Relationship Management, EMEA, Moodys
4: Sir Lenny Henry: Actor, writer, campaigner
5: Mo Farah: Olympic Champion
6: Lewis Hamilton: Formula 1 World Champion
7: Ishmail Ahmed: Founder/CEO World Remit
8: Dr Shirley Thomson: Composer
9: Sharon White: Chief Executive Ofcom
More photos of Mr Ilube below…