Time to find alternative for unsuccessful BEE

Moeletsi Mbeki recently argued that black economic empowerment (BEE) was not a creation of the ANC, but an initiative from business to protect its interests post-transition.
Moeletsi Mbeki recently argued that black economic empowerment (BEE) was not a creation of the ANC, but an initiative from business to protect its interests post-transition.
Image: 123RF/ HXDBZXY

Moeletsi Mbeki recently argued that black economic empowerment (BEE) was not a creation of the ANC, but an initiative from business to protect its interests post-transition.

One may dispute his account, but BEE is now a centrepiece and ideologically ingrained part of the ANC’s policy world. Nevertheless, the central point stands — business has played a key role in creating the current economic environment.

Business must take responsibility for this. In recent weeks, organised business has been marketing its plans for an economic recovery, and calls for a “review of the efficacy of existing regulation and policies in achieving sustainable economic transformation and B-BBEE”.

The implication seems to be that current policy is not working well, and some sort of (indeterminate, unspecified) change is required. But this not something business is willing to commit to.

This is unfortunate. BEE has not expanded the economy or broadened participation. And to the extent that it has undermined entrepreneurship, shooed away investment, placed burdens on small firms and been used as a pretext for corruption, it has done harm.

The time is ripe for something new to replace BEE — a policy that would prioritise growth, poverty alleviation and the creation of opportunities for the country’s poor.

Business needs to take a position on this. If it seeks a robust economy, it must be willing to speak forthrightly about the failings of BEE and about real alternatives, however uncomfortable this may be.

— Terence Corrigan, project manager, Institute of Race Relations



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