Sir Richard Branson has apologised for a photo he used to mark the launch his new Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship in South Africa.
The entrepreneur tweeted a photo which was criticised for failing to reflect the diversity of South Africa.
One of the critics is South African fashion designer Thula Sindi, who says: “Where did you find so many white people in South Africa?”
Sir Richard tweeted an apology, saying it “clearly lacked diversity”.
A Virgin Group spokesperson added the image in Sir Richard’s tweet did not reflect “the diverse make-up of attendees” at the launch event.
In the intial tweet, Sir Richard said: “Wonderful to be in South Africa to help launch the new Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship. We aim to become the heart of entrepreneurship for Southern Africa.”
It sparked a series of responses, including from Mr Sindi – whose designs were worn by South Africa’s minister of communications and telecommunications, Stella Ndabeni-Abraham on the day she was sworn in.
He remarks that it must have “Really taken an honest effort for exclude the majority of the population which is just as skilled and talented”.Skip Twitter post by @thulasindi
Where did you find so many white people in South Africa??? That must have really taken an honest effort for exclude the majority of the population which is just as skilled and talented. Wow. Incredible 93012:42 PM – Nov 11, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy197 people are talking about thisReport
End of Twitter post by @thulasindi
Sir Richard later tweeted: “Apologies. I hope you will take a look at my blog which does far better justice to the amazing work of the Centre and its team.”Skip Twitter post 2 by @richardbranson
The Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship is for all South Africans, but yesterday’s choice of a photo to go with my tweet clearly lacked diversity. Apologies. I hope you will take a look at my blog which does far better justice to the amazing work of the Centre and its team.1,08711:05 AM – Nov 12, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy888 people are talking about thisReport
End of Twitter post 2 by @richardbranson
In the link to his blog, Sir Richard writes: “We will play a more meaningful role in entrepreneurs’ lives than your average accelerator, supporting companies to not just survive, but thrive, and make business a real force for good in society, for the environment and the economy.”
One individual had told critics they were wrong. “This is one of many pictures, most of which are diverse,” he tweeted.Skip Twitter post by @SiceloNkosi
Race advocates, I’m on your side but think you got this one wrong. Please open the link before you comment. This is one of many pictures, most of which are diverse.71:19 PM – Nov 11, 2019 · Hillcrest, South AfricaTwitter Ads info and privacySee Sicelo Nkosi’s other TweetsReport
End of Twitter post by @SiceloNkosi
South Africa’s population of almost 58 million is 80% black African, and Sir Richard writes in his blog that the “economy is dependent on entrepreneurial activity for creating future economic growth and jobs”.
“But the economic contribution to South Africa’s entrepreneurial sector is below the developing country norm. I believe that increasing entrepreneurship in this country is the golden highway to economic democracy,” he adds.
Sir Richard’s Virgin Group has a wide range of interests from gyms to planes and the entrepreneur’s space company, Virgin Galactic, listed on the New York Stock Exchange last month.
A spokesperson for Virgin said: “The tweet linked to a blog about the launch of the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship South Africa, which assists aspiring entrepreneurs of all backgrounds with the skills, opportunities and inspiration they need to succeed.
“We apologise for the poorly chosen image, but would like to emphasise that this does not reflect the diverse make-up of attendees.
“As the video, other social posts and other images of the event show, many of the diverse group of Branson Centre entrepreneurs, trustees and team were present and the image attached to that particular tweet should have reflected this too.”