Meet Toyin Allen and Funke Ajibola, who work at Covent Garden Market Authority. They discuss their experiences so far with the market and kindly gave us an insight into Nigerian and African Culture in honour of Black History Month.
How long have you both worked at CGMA?
Toyin: I am very new to CGMA, I have only been here for 6 months.
Funke: Since October 2021, 25th October to be precise, so coming up to a year now already.
Tell us about your roles within CGMA?
Funke: So, I am the finance manager, my role focuses largely on day-to-day finance related tasks such as year-end, reporting, budgeting and so on as well as having a team that I look after. I report to our head of finance Cassandra Glavin.
Toyin: Well, I focus on looking after all our staff within CGMA, as well as helping to manage the CGMA chart of organisational processes and strategy implementation. I promote wellbeing throughout the organisation and ensure that everything is compliant with HR procedures.
Were both of your industries career targets from a young age or did you naturally fall into them through life experiences?
Funke: For me, from the end of primary school I became really intrigued with finance related matters and then later the world of finance as a whole. So I studied accounting at university and then later expanded my professional development by doing my ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) qualification.
Toyin: I always knew that I wanted to be at the heart and centre of a business and earning money doing what I love. I decided to pursue a degree in Business Administration and fell in love with HR. Then I embarked on a post-grad diploma in Human Resource Management and furthered my professional studies by attaining associate membership through CIPD.
How does it feel to be based at London’s largest and finest Fruit and Veg Market?
Toyin: It’s a great place with a buzzing atmosphere, I am an avid user of the market - I grew up in Battersea, so the market has been on my doorstep for over 30 years of my life.
Funke: I think it is so dynamic and a unique set up, and nice to be a part of something that brings so many different people together. It’s really diverse.
It’s Black History Month, and the theme for 2022 is Time for Change: Action Not Words. What positive changes have you seen over the past 5 years in the workplace in regards to- cultural integration and the development of diversity?
Funke: I would say there has definitely been a change in the right direction. I can see progress in this and my previous roles- diversity and inclusion is embraced, and it is strongly present within CGMA. In one of my previous roles, I was part of the diversity and inclusion network, and since then it has been great to see more integration in thought processes. So, things are progressing.
Toyin: I agree, I think things have gone from being brushed under the carpet, to now being addressed and developed. Movements like Black Lives Matter had a ripple effect. I also wouldn’t work for an employer if they didn’t embrace diversity.
What advice would you give to job seekers within the black community and local area about the opportunities at the market?
Funke: To be focused, to be bold, and brave and to not limit yourself - what you want is achievable.
Toyin: Exactly that, and to also persevere and have an idea as to what you want achieve.
You are both from Nigeria, tell us about the competition between Ghana and Nigeria’s infamous jollof rice?
Toyin: Simple answer - Nigerian Jollof is the best.
Funke: There has been ongoing competition, it’s still ongoing, but yes Nigerian Jollof for me is better, it could just be that I am accustomed to the taste.
Toyin: True, we probably are accustomed to our way of making it, and maybe our palettes just favour the Nigerian style of making it. It just tastes better, it’s got a sweet kick amongst the spices.
Funke: Yes, it comes down to the ingredients that we use.
Food is a hearty part of African culture, from your own perspectives first hand, how important is food when uniting communities and bringing people together?
Toyin: Very important, for Nigerian and African families overall, food is an important aspect of our gatherings. It’s the focal point.
Funke: Precisely, food is like our blue blood. It makes everybody happy, there’s an expectation for it at events, it uplifts everybody and it basically is the life of the party.
Toyin: If African families came to a party and there was no food – well, they wouldn’t stay for long! Food is basically part of our communication and connection.
If you were both to merge together in the kitchen, what ingredients would you use from the market and what dish you both create?
Funke: We would have to make Jollof, with a nice salad on the side. So, we would buy sweet red peppers, scotch bonnets, onions, spinach, tomatoes for the Jollof, and apples to put in the salad.
Toyin: They also sell plantain which accompanies jollof nicely.