Limkokwing University under fire over ‘King of Africa’ billboard

The billboard depicting Lim Kok Wing as the ‘King of Africa.’ Photo: Sam Chin /change.org
The billboard depicting Lim Kok Wing as the ‘King of Africa.’ Photo: Sam Chin /change.org

A local university has sparked online outrage over a billboard depicting founder Lim Kok Wing as the “King of Africa.”

The billboard was placed at the Limkokwing Cyberjaya campus and also included an illustration of Lim posing with a cheetah alongside another photo of what looked like African students crowding around Lim.

Nearly 3,000 people have signed an online petition created three days ago demanding the billboard be removed. The university has not issued a public apology but told reporters today it was sorry for the “misunderstanding” and that it had taken down the billboard days ago. 

It has not responded to Coconuts KL’s request for further comment via email today.

“This Billboard is a poster of Lim Kok Wing claiming to be King of Africa. The photo shows him in the center of his Sierra Leone students, celebrating him. There is nothing wrong in the use of this particular photo. However, I HEAVILY disagree with how it has been executed,” the petition page set up by someone named Sam Chin read. 

“Black students in Lim Kok Wing University are angry and hurt by the insensitivity of LKW’s action. However, they are unable to speak out in fear of them losing their visa and encountering issues with Malaysia’s immigration,” it added.  

The university is founded by 74-year-old Lim Kok Wing, someone who regards himself as a philanthropist, a designer and even an artist, among many others. 

Not the first time

Former university employee Malaz Elnaiem, 31, a British national of Sudanese descent, shared with Coconuts KL how she felt about the university’s founder and its latest racist incident. 

“He (Lim Kok Wing) makes Africans look like they need saving and presenting himself as the one who is educating Africans, when in fact he is funded by these African nations,” Elnaiem said, who served as a full-time employee from 2015 to 2017. Limkokwing University has close ties with African nations, having opened up Limkokwing campus branches in Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), and Sierra Leone.

Elnaiem also shared about a previous incident that happened three years ago where she was excluded from a photoshoot that was supposed to showcase the school’s diversity. 

Left: Elnaiem in what was reportedly the original photoshoot. Right: Limkokwing University’s printed ‘diversity’ poster after the re-shoot in 2017. Photos: Malaz Elnaiem
Left: Elnaiem in what was reportedly the original photoshoot. Right: Limkokwing University’s printed ‘diversity’ poster after the re-shoot in 2017. Photos: Malaz Elnaiem

She said that she was initially called for the photoshoot and had posed for photos with several others. But then the university decided to re-do it without her and other people of color. 

“Every other dark-skinned person was removed,” she said.

Last week, a Penang woman was called out for using the late George Floyd’s last words as a tagline to market air purifiers. The woman apologized on Friday giving the excuse that she was stressed by the movement control order. George Floyd was the man who had died in America after a police officer knelt on his neck. His death led to protests across the U.S. 

Before we fight racism in other nations, perhaps its time we take a closer look at the injustices in our own backyard. 

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