President Cyril Ramaphosa at Imbizo Centre in Parliament. File photo: Phando/Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA).
Parliament - The development and empowerment of black-owned businesses and industrialists will be in the spotlight as President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his State of the Nation Address in Parliament on Thursday.

This comes as young and emerging companies find it extremely hard to access opportunities in the business sector due to lack of transformation amid other challenges.

Moreover, some critics believe there is a concerted effort to vilify black-owned companies.

In his address in February, Ramaphosa honed in on the Competition Amendment Bill stating that this would open up new opportunities for plenty of South Africans to enter various sectors of the economy and compete on an equal footing.

Ramaphosa also said that given the key role small businesses played in stimulating economic activity and employment - and in advancing broad-based empowerment - the government would this year expand on its small business incubation programme.

Similarly, in his maiden speech last year, the president highlighted that the process of industrialisation in the country had to be underpinned by transformation.

“We will improve our capacity to support black professionals, deal decisively with companies that resist transformation, use competition policy to open markets up to new black entrants, and invest in the development of businesses in townships and rural areas,” he said at the time.

Some industry professionals have come out saying that profitable black businesses that are making a positive impact economically in South Africa need to be protected.

Black business is said to be under siege, as many believe that state institutions are targeting black-owned companies instead of focusing on major conglomerates that have lost billions of rands worth of investors and pensioners money in South Africa’s economic landscape. As things stand now, black business only constitutes 3% of companies listed on the JSE after 25 years of democracy.

Black Business Council president Sandile Zungu believes Ramaphosa needs to stick to his promises as per the mandate he was given by voters in last month’s general elections.

“We expect the president to continue strengthening the Competition Commission and equip it with resources as it tries to break down the monopoly that exists we also expect him to announce more opportunities so that the township and rural economies can thrive going forward.”

Zungu emphasised that the BBC wold be engaging with Ramaphosa for the industry to open up a bit more for entrepreneurs and professionals.

“We are asking for capital to be made available for these businesses so as to help them rebuild the economy.”

The Women and Democracy Initiative at the Dullah Omar Institute said it wanted the president to put his money where his mouth is and fulfil his commitments of improving women’s lives in the country.

“There is still a big wage gap between genders. Domestic workers, predominantly women, still earn less than construction workers, mostly men. These minimums reinforce the lower value placed on ‘women’s work’ and we need greater commitment to regulate this gap,” said Vivienne Mentor-Lalu, an institute researcher.

Political Bureau