Ghanaian-British politician Kwasi Kwarteng was this month named as a business secretary by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, making him the first Black secretary of state and currently the only Black politician in the cabinet.
As business secretary, his responsibilities will include “reassuring businesses in the wake of Brexit, addressing Britain’s future energy needs and pushing through a new, tougher corporate takeover regime, as well as liaising with business groups over Covid-19 restrictions,” according to FT.com.
Commenting on his appointment, the shadow business secretary, Ed Miliband, said: “Kwasi Kwarteng has a massive task. Businesses need support and a plan to help them through this year, not the inadequate sticking plaster measures we have seen.”
Born in Waltham Forest in 1975 to parents who migrated to the UK from Ghana as students in the 1960s, Kwarteng has been serving as a Member of Parliament for Spelthorne since 2010. At age 13, he won a scholarship to study at Eton College and later read history at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he earned Bachelor and Ph.D. degrees in British History.
Before entering parliament, Kwarteng worked as a financial analyst and author. He authored the book “Ghosts of Empire,” about the legacy of the British Empire and also co-authored “Gridlock Nation” with Jonathan Dupont in 2011, on the causes and solutions to traffic congestion in Britain.
He first ventured into politics when he stood as the Conservative candidate in the constituency of Brent East at the 2005 general election. He was unsuccessful but in 2010, he won the parliamentary race for Spelthorne. He was re-elected as Conservative MP for Spelthorne on May 7, 2015.
Kwarteng has served on a number of Select Committees since being elected and has served as Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to the Leader of the House of Lords and the Chancellor of the Exchequer as well as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department for Exiting the European Union.
He was a strong supporter of Johnson in both the 2016 and 2019 Conservative Party Leadership elections. Following Johnson’s victory, he was appointed Minister of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
In a mini reshuffle on January 8, Kwarteng replaced Alok Sharma as Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, making him the first Black Conservative to have been appointed to the level of Secretary of State.
Kwarteng has been a strong advocate of local enterprise and reforms in the business environment to make the UK business-friendly. He launched an initiative in 2013 dubbed the “Spelthorne Business Plan Competition” to find the local entrepreneurs of tomorrow. The competition has run successfully every year since it was launched.