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March 2, 2018

It’s time to practice real BEE

By: Xolile Ndlangana – Director: Sales and Marketing, Boxfusion

South Africa is alive with the anticipation of change. As a new president takes the helm, and we enter a period of mixed optimism, it’s a good time to reflect on how far we’ve come as a country, and how far we still have to go.

This is especially true of transformation. Just how much have companies and employers done to uplift young black South Africans seeking to enter the formal workplace? It’s a pertinent question to be asking, following on from the recent 2018 Budget Speech, and considering the current rate of unemployment in our country is at 26.7% (or 5.8 million unemployed South Africans).

While “BEE” has become an unpopular term in the corporate sphere, the concept behind it, namely redressing the inequalities of the past and ensuring socio-economic transformation, is a noble one. Not only is it noble, but its successful implementation is vital to curbing the increasing social tension in our country.

Few recognise the benefits that BEE offers when practised properly, which includes a deepening of the economy, stimulating growth and releasing the economic potential of young black professionals.

As one of the largest employers in the country, the SMME sector has an important and undeniable role to play in the practical implementation of BEE. Micro, Small and Medium enterprises employ around 54% of the economically active population according to Stats SA (2001). This means that the onus is on such employers to practically implement BEE principles in their companies to ensure the grassroots empowerment of those who were previously disadvantaged.

A good place to start is where they do: at universities. Instead of only employing graduates from top universities like UCT and Wits, it’s worthwhile carefully considering and employ candidates from less notable institutions with the same qualifications and skills, giving them the opportunity to gain practical workplace experience.

While many only focus on the financial aspect of BEE, one of the primary keys to its success as a transformation tool is to ensure that those who are given such opportunities are upskilled. Without skills transfer and management development the empowerment purpose of BEE falls flat.

One of the benefits of BEE, mentioned earlier, is its potential to deepen the economy and stimulate growth. Giving young black professionals employment opportunities is one thing, but additionally ensuring that they are earning a decent living wage is essential. Ensuring financial independence gives young black professionals spending and saving power. The first stimulates the local economy, the second increases personal savings in South Africa, making the country as a whole less reliant on foreign investment.

There is one final practical application which closes the loop of BEE transformation. We’ve already discussed SMME’s central role in empowering young black professionals through practical policies. But in order for small companies like Boxfusion to fulfil this function, we need individuals, larger corporates and government to support local small businesses. When supporting the trade of small local business over large foreign conglomerates, we’re also supporting the successful implementation of BEE in South Africa.