South African President Cyril Ramaphosa admitted on Monday that empowering black businesses has been a challenge, with white-owned firms still dominating companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE).
Writing in his weekly letter to the nation, Ramaphosa revealed that at independence in 1994, black ownership of JSE-listed companies was less than one percent.
“This figure has not improved much in the past 28 year,” Ramaphosa said.
He, however, noted that this development was not reflective of efforts by the South African government to transform the economy by empowering black businesses.
“There have been important private sector initiatives and deliberate measures by the state to facilitate greater and more meaningful participation of black people into the economy,” he said.
He added: “Economic transformation and economic growth are intertwined. By integrating transformation into the process of industrialisation, we are advancing a more inclusive growth model that shares, rather than concentrates, wealth in a few white businesses.”
He warned that the empowerment of black people was imperative to economic growth and, without it, inequality would continue in South Africa.
“We have a shared responsibility to drive the effort to entrench Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) because it is about eradicating inequality. Unequal economies breed unequal societies, and unequal societies don’t grow and flourish,” Ramaphosa said.
He is this week expected to announce the formation of a new multi-sectoral BBBEE Advisory Council aimed at “championing the cause of economic transformation” in the country.