Sir Richard Branson apologises for diversity gaffe in South Africa launch photo

12 November 2019, 14:04 | Updated: 12 November 2019, 15:11

Sir Richard Branson has apologised after posting a photograph from a launch event in South Africa that only included white people.

The tycoon acknowledged the image, used to accompany a tweet, "clearly lacked diversity".

The billionaire Virgin Group boss had faced criticism over the picture he used to mark the launch of the new Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship.

In the tweet, which has now been removed, 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."

One of those to respond was the South African fashion designer Thula Sindi, who wrote on Twitter: "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."

Latest official government figures show South Africa's black population make up around 81% of its 59 million citizens, while white people account for 7.9%.

Later images posted on Twitter by Sir Richard included a more diverse range of people.

Following the criticism, Mr Branson wrote: "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."

Writing on his blog, Sir Richard said the centre aimed "to become the heart of entrepreneurship for Southern Africa".

He said: "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.

"The South African 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."