It was a pleasure and an honour to be invited to speak at Sunday's African Business Market (ABM).
The market was as much a buzzing social event as it was a showcase for the talented entrepreneurs from our African community in Edinburgh.
There was some fantastic entertainment, including performances from the likes of rapper Skky-Boi, the Zawadi Choir and singer Noreen Mindeyes.
The ABM also provided information on some of the community services and support that is available for Africans living in Scotland, from dealing with common health concerns to accessing youth sports clubs. Life in Scotland can bring many additional challenges for people from our BME communities, and the support that is out there can seem remote or difficult to access. ABM is working with community organisations to help tackle this.
It was fitting that this event was held in Leith as it has been a melting pot of cultures and nationalities over the centuries, serving as an entry point to Scotland for countless people, trading into here from around the world. I came here from Australia myself some 20-odd years ago, and made this place my home. I love the variety that comes with the people and the culture mix that enlivens this salty old town.
My office is just along on Great Junction Street and the businesses surrounding it show the elements that make up the vibrant culture of Leith and of Edinburgh. Across the road is the African Flavour Lounge, the African shop and the Super 5 Hair and Beauty Salon beside the Cantonese takeaway, the Scottish Fried Chicken shop and the French café while next door to me is the Eastern European supermarket. We're not far from an Italian-American diner, a Turkish grocer and a Swedish pub – I can travel the world without leaving the street.
The drive of the people I met at the African Business Market to make a better life for themselves and their families through running successful businesses enriches the lives of everyone who lives in the same communities and I was delighted to be able to celebrate some of that.
Let's hope that there are many, many more successful businesses joining their ranks in the years to come.
And let's hope that people continue to come here, bringing their culture to add to the mix we have already, adding life, vitality and excitement to an already wonderful community.