RARE  RISINGSTARS - The UK’s Top 10 Black Students
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Reflect and renew

our highlights from the past decade

Over the last eleven years, Rare Rising Stars has told the stories of over one hundred high-achieving, resilient and ambitious Black students in the United Kingdom. As we earmark the start of this new decade, and in line with the theme of this year’s edition, we took the opportunity to catch-up with some of our stars from previous years and celebrate some more of their continued achievements in the last decade. Here are some exciting updates on what some of our past stars have been up to.

Kenny Imafidon

Peckham-born Kenny Imafidon was a Rare Rising Stars Award winner in 2014. Only four years prior, Kenny had been forced to take his A Levels in Feltham Young Offenders Institution, being the first inmate to do so, after being falsely accused of a crime he did not commit. This was one of many hurdles that the social entrepreneur and political activist had to overcome, to emerge as a true leader of his generation. By 2014, Kenny was an award-winning author of two prominent reports on youth and social policy, a trustee and director of the British Youth Council and a partner of a social policy consultancy firm. Six years later, Kenny is now the Co-Founder and Managing Director of ClearView Research LTD. His company, which just recently celebrated its fifth anniversary, is a leading-edge research and strategy agency that has worked with organisations such as Starbucks, UNICEF UK and the NHS. Alongside this, Kenny and his mentor Lord Michael Hastings co-founded My Brother’s Keeper, which is a prison programme which has provided UK prisoners with opportunities for personal development and access to a lifelong mentor. He also sits on several boards such as BBC Children in Need, Spark Inside, S.W.I.M and City Gateway, where he is currently the Chair of the Trustee Board.


Dr Chibundu Onuzo

Dr Chibundu Onuzo was placed #1 in Rare Rising Stars in 2012, having already accomplished an amazing treble of accolades at that time. Aged 19, she was the youngest female writer to be published by Faber & Faber. Her book, The Spider King’s Daughter, had been longlisted for the Desmond Elliot Prize and she had been profiled by the likes of The Observer, CNN, BBC and The FT. Since then, The Spider King’s Daughter has won the Betty Trask Award and was shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize as well as the Commonwealth Book Prize. Dr Chibundu also went on to publish another book, Welcome to Lagos, before completing her PhD at King’s College in 2018.

Her second book, Welcome to Lagos, was also a critical and commercial success. It was shortlisted for the Encore Awards and led to an 8-city book tour in America for Dr Chibundu. In 2018, Dr Chibundu was elected as a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, becoming one of the youngest fellows elected to the 200-year-old society. The following year, Dr Chibundu was commissioned for an autobiographical show held at the Southbank Centre. The show, titled 1991, sold-out its first leg and sold well on its second leg. Dr Chibundu is now writing full-time and her third novel, SANKOFA will be published in the UK (Virago), US (Catapult) and Nigeria (Narrative Landscape) in 2021.


Beni Ngwamah

Beni Ngwamah was a recipient of a Rare Rising Stars Award in 2015. By then, he had already defied multiple odds - escaping the second Congo war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, followed by deprivation and exposure to gang violence in London - to found the Congolese Financial Project (COFIPRO), a credit union designed to unite the Congolese community and give its members access to low interest loans. Five years on, the ideas behind the project have been seeded into WEKA, a startup at which he is the CEO and Founder. WEKA is an investment marketplace that allows individuals to invest in emerging startups and businesses in Africa. The venture is supported by Google for startups, the University of Cambridge Judge Business Social Ventures Program and Clifford Chance amongst many others. Before founding WEKA, Beni worked full-time as an Analyst at Barclays Investment Bank for 2 years.


Edwin Broni-Mensah

Edwin Broni-Mensah, recipient of a Rare Rising Stars Award in 2011, founded GiveMeTap in 2009 with less than £3,000 in seed funding. GiveMeTap is a social enterprise which aims to make clean drinking water available to everyone, everywhere. In 2011, GiveMeTap was operating in five UK cities. In the proceeding ten-year period, the company has experienced tremendous growth and change. In 2014, Edwin took GiveMeTap to San Francisco, employed five people and grew his company into a global enterprise selling in over 20 countries. GiveMeTap has donated over £300,000 to the funding of water pumps across the world, provided over 78,201 people access to clean water for life, and has indirectly reduced global consumption of plastic bottles by an estimated 750 million plastic bottles. In 2017, Edwin decided to transform GiveMeTap into a remote company and begun travelling around the world whilst running the organisation. Over the last 18 months, Edwin has travelled through 15 countries picking up Spanish and Salsa in Latin America along the way.

George Mpanga

George Mpanga was a recipient of the Rare Rising Stars Award in 2012. In 2012, the straight A’s – A*s Cambridge undergraduate, was dazzling small music venues across the country with his music and poetry. Almost a decade later, George’s rise to success has seen exponential growth. In 2014, George released his debut EP The Chicken and the Egg, to critical acclaim, with Island Records. That EP led to multiple award nominations. However, despite building the foundations of what looked like a very promising music career, George decided to take a break from music to focus on community development, and success followed him.

In 2018, George released the first chapter of his podcast series Have You Heard George’s Podcast? independently. For George, the podcast format gave him the freedom to express his creativity beyond the boundaries of the 3-minute limit we find in the music industry today. After its first year, the podcast won in five categories at the British Podcast Awards, including Smartest Podcast and Best Arts and Culture. His second chapter, released last year, won the NME Best Podcast Award and was the first ever podcast outside of the US to win the Peabody Award for radio and podcasting. George has also been elected to be the youngest ever member of the National Council of Arts for Arts Council England, and has continued to use his platform to comment on the Black British experience with TV appearances on Newsnight, Question Time and the BBC coverage of the royal wedding between Prince Harry and Megan Markle.

Written by Bez Adeosun