Time for change: beware economic apartheid in all its forms

Since 1994, South Africa’s history has been a story of two tales. On one hand, we broke away from political apartheid, consolidated our freedoms, and in many cases, set an example for the rest of the world.

On the other hand, the existence of economic apartheid continues to hamper growth, divide our country on racial lines and destroys opportunity for the majority black population.

In boardrooms, black South African CEOs are a dying breed, their number falling from 15% to 10% in recent years. Amongst asset management firms, less than a third are black owned. In Limpopo, where 97% of the population is black, life expectancy is a full decade shorter than in Western Cape which has the highest white population in the country.

A raw deal

So how did the rainbow nation end up like this? Though South Africans rightly expected the end of apartheid would bring economic transformation, this simply did not materialise.

As the post-apartheid settlement was being struck, corporate South Africa under the guises of SA Foundation argued that a free hand approach to economic governance would give rise to a private investment boom, create mass employment, and empower millions of black South Africans that had been systematically held back.

Corporate South Africa even gave the appearance to seizing the initiative on transformation by putting forward an agenda for “Black Economic Empowerment” (BEE).

However, put simply, South Africa was sold short. Assessing the success of the BEE for example, the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Commission, a statutory body established to monitor, evaluate and encourage BEE found that today, two-thirds of businesses are fronting!

For those less familiar with fronting, the South African Department for Trade and Industry helpfully provide a definition of this as the “deliberate circumvention or attempted circumvention” of BEE.

But the failure of BEE is just a drop in the ocean. Of 53 million South Africans, over 27% are unemployed. Alarming as this figure is, it becomes worse when looking at black South Africans alone, amongst whom 39% are unemployed.

And two decades after fall of apartheid, one in four South Africans go to bed hungry, whilst on the other hand, Pick n Pay estimate as much as ZAR60 billion worth of food is wasted every year.

A platform for you

This blog has always shone a light on how economic apartheid – the struggle of our lifetimes – lives on and the many different faces it takes.

We’ve touched on banking apartheid in recent weeks, and will continue to do so in all the sectors it exists due to monopolies and oligopolies – allowing little competition. To the food and healthcare industries, we are looking at you in particular.

Have you suffered economic apartheid? Let us know, SPEAK UP! Let everyone know what you think – Comment below. Always. Tweet us @Voetsek_SA, or Like us on Facebook.

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