Mo Farah & Kweku Adoboli: A Tale Of Two Britons of African Descent
By Ahmed Sule, CFA
Once upon a time, over twenty-eight years ago, somewhere in Mogadishu, Somalia, a woman gave birth to a healthy baby boy. The child was given the name Mohammed. Three years earlier, in 1980, somewhere in Ghana, another woman gave birth to a healthy baby boy. The child was named Kweku.
At the age of eight, Mohammed left Djibouti (where he was based after his birth) for England to join his father Mr. Farah who was based in the UK at the time. Likewise Kweku also came to England at the age of eleven in 1991.
Life in England and education
Mo (as he was later called) attended Feltham Community College in London where he struggled academically, but excelled athletically. Kweku on the other hand attended Ackworth School, a private boarding school where he excelled academically. He was appointed the Head Boy of the school in his final year. Kweku later attended the University of Nottingham, where he obtained a degree in e-commerce and digital business.
After their education, their careers took different paths. Mo became a long distance runner specialising in the 5,000 metres and 10,000 metres races. At the commencement of his career, Mo was an average runner achieving an average placing of seventh in various races at the European and World Athletic Championships between 2005 and 2009.
Three years after graduating from University, Kweku Adoboli secured a job at the blue chip Swiss investment bank UBS. Kweku was very hardworking and extremely intelligent. Within a couple of years of joining UBS in 2006, he rose through the ranks eventually attaining a position as a Director of ETF Trading , earning a seven digit pay packet. Kweku was well loved by his colleagues and was a star trader.
What Kweku achieved in the trading room of UBS, Mo began to achieve on the racing tracks of Europe. Between 2009 and 2010, Mo Farah won three gold medals at the 3,000 metres, 5,000 metres and 10,000 metres events of the European Athletics Championships.
The year 2011 was a watershed year for these two hardworking Britons of African descent as the year brought them worldwide attention. At the 2011 World Athletics Championship, which took place in South Korea, Mo competed in the 5,000 metres and 10,000 metres events. Mo won a silver medal at the 10,000 metres event and his crowning moment came on the 4th of September 2011 when he won the 5,000 metres race beating America's Bernard Lagat. By this feat, Mo Farah became the first British athlete to win a global gold medal at 5,000 metres and a medal over 10,000 metres.
Exactly eleven days later on 15 September 2011, Kweku Adoboli was catapulted onto the world stage as it was revealed that he was alleged to have lost his employer $2bn as a result of a rogue trade. The amount lost by Kweku was the biggest loss ever accrued by a single trader in British financial history. Kweku made headline news all over the world and his face was adorned on the front pages of the tabloids, the broadsheets and the financial newspapers. Kweku was eventually arrested and has been charged with fraud. As at the time of writing, he is yet to be convicted.
Mo and Kweku are both British citizens who have spent 70% and 64% of their lives respectively in England. They are also products of the British sports and financial institutions respectively in addition to the British educational system. Although they are of African descent, they are British by culture, citizenry and fame.
However, at the peak of their fame, one notices an asymmetric treatment of their recognition as Britons. While most people have recognized Mo as British, the reverse is the case for Kweku who has been widely described as African.
To illustrate my point, I highlight below references in the press to both Kweku and Mo at the peak of their fame:
04 September 2011 to 05 September 2011
"Great Britain's Mo Farah crosses the finish line to win the 5,000m title at the World Athletics Championships in Daegu" - AP
"Few British athletes have sacrificed more to win, and he was elated with what he had achieved" - Guardian
"Mo Farah claims place among British all-time greats with World title triumph"
- Daily Mirror
"Brendan Foster believes Mo Farah is Britain's greatest ever long distance runner"
- Daily Mail
"Patience, patience, patience. Those were the last words of advice Mo Farah received from his American coach, Alberto Salazar, before he went to the start line for his 5,000 metres final. Britain must give thanks that the Londoner is a good listener"
"MO FARAH became the first Brit to win a global 5,000m title and then roared: ÔÇśBring on 2012' "- The Sun
and here are comments from a number of blogs
"well done for all in Britain"
"Mo got the tactics just right in the 5k. Up there with the best of British distance running and a great guy."
15 September 2011 to 16 September 2011
"From Ghana to the City: the rise of a trader who had it all"- The Telegraph
"Adoboli, British-educated and of Ghanaian descent, did not enter pleas to the charges when they were set out at the magistrates court".- Guardian
"The Ghanaian, who was privately educated in Britain and is the son of a retired UN worker, is accused of being responsible for the biggest loss ever accrued by a single trader based in London" - Daily Mail
"Adoboli appeared before City of London Magistrates' Court this afternoon. During the fifteen minute hearing, the well-built Ghanaian was handed a tissue from the clerk as he wiped a tear away".- The Sun
"Vickers, silver-haired and a knighted academic, is a far cry from the 31-year-old party-loving Adoboli of African origin. Still, they are in the spotlight this week and inextricably linked."- Business Standard
"Educated at an exclusive school in a picturesque patch of English countryside, Ghana-born trader Kweku Adoboli was known to neighbors as a polite and well dressed young man who mixed grueling hours in London's financial district with a lavish social life in the capital's nightspots." - AP
and here are comments from a number of blogs
"Thought so when I heard his name, looks Nigerian, fraud and scams are endemic to these people, I always used to tell my clients never accept payment from Nigeria except in hard cash."
"The bank that trusts a Nigerian employee (Kweku Adoboli) with money is a bank that's about to go out of business rapidly."
As the saying goes, "success has many fathers, while failure is an orphan". Could this explain why Mo Farah is referred to as British while the public forgets his Somalian roots and why Kweku Adoboli is referred to as Ghanaian, Nigerian or African and his British affiliation is easily forgotten?
Would Kweku have been referred to as Ghanaian and not British if he won the Nobel Prize for Economics? Would Kweku have been referred to as African and not British if he found the cure for cancer? Would Kweku have been referred to as Ghanaian born and not British if he won the Olympics 100 metres final?
Would Mo have been referred to as British and not Somolian if he was found to be a terrorist? Would Mo have been referred to as British and not African if he failed a drug test? Would Mo have been referred to as British and not Somolian born if he was a serial killer?
It is time for Britons of African descent or Africans of British birth to be recognized as either Africans or Britons irrespective of success or failure, fame or notoriety, good or evil; after all Brits of Jewish descent are recognized as Brits; Brits of Australian descent are recognized as Brits and Brits of Australian descent are recognized as Brits.
Ahmed Sule, CFA