For much of the last six years, I have reflected a great deal about South Africa’s black economic empowerment (BEE) policies. What I have tried to understand is what the impact of these policies has been in our young democracy.
Since its establishment in the 1990s, BEE has been seen by many in the country as a policy fundamental to the uplifting of black people who were disadvantaged before 1994. The intentions of BEE during its founding were exactly that – the improvement of black people’s lives. It was a noble idea.
I must be clear – helping the poor – especially in a challenged country like ours is an imperative. In my opinion. We should help them either via government or in our private capacities.
However, it is very important that in our anti-poverty programs, efficiency and effectiveness are paramount. And BEE fails to meet that criterion.
Dr. Anthea Jeffery of the South African Institute of Race Relations (IRR) has written great content on BEE and its failures. Her findings, detailed in her book titled “BEE – Helping or Hurting?”, are that the policy has largely benefitted the already well-off black people, not the poor blacks as was originally intended. This finding is damning to the advocates of BEE policies.
Advocating for the scrapping of BEE policies is controversial. Whoever argues against them endures nasty attacks. Regardless of how strong their argument is on the failures of the policies. If you think the nasty attacks are unique to South Africa, you are mistaken.