Richard Branson apologized Tuesday morning after tweeting out a photo full of white people to announce the grand opening of his new Centre of Entrepreneurship in South Africa.
“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,” Branson tweeted on Tuesday along with a photo of him standing with two people of color and five other white people.
The 69-year-old Virgin Group founder and CEO shared the photo of his all-white South African entrepreneurship team counterparts early Monday morning before deleting it after Twitter users took him to task for it.
Later he posted other photos that included a more diverse group of people.
“We aim to become the heart of entrepreneurship for Southern Africa,” Branson stated in his original tweet, which included a photo of him standing with eight other white people in a Cape Town, South Africa, vineyard owned by Virgin.
The lack of diversity in Branson’s photo made some Twitter users question the sincerity of his stated mission to empower entrepreneurs in sub-Saharan Africa. South Africa is a country of 55.4 million people, of which 81% are black.
The nation also has a long, painful history of racial apartheid imposed on its black majority by its white minority, which now makes up just 7.8% of the nation.
“Where did you find so many white people in South Africa???” South African fashion designer Thula Sindi asked Branson in a reply to Branson’s original tweet. “That must have really taken an honest effort [to] exclude the majority of the population, which is just as skilled and talented. Wow. Incredible.”
Branson tried to clear things up on Tuesday morning by directing his Twitter followers to his Virgin blog page where he showcased additional photos featuring a handful of black people.
“I hope you will take a look at my blog which does far better justice to the amazing work of the Centre and its team,” Branson added in his Tuesday morning tweet.
The knighted billionaire’s new South African center is one of several initiatives aimed at addressing global causes, including ocean protection, access to clean energy, and climate change, in addition to entrepreneurship.
“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,” Branson wrote in his blog.