black empowerment

Despite South Africa having the most active financial markets in Africa, as well as an established track record in private equity, black empowerment companies have struggled to attract PE deals over the last few years.

In 2012 however, things were a bit different. The number of investments has picked up. But the average size of invesments has shrunk. What’s going on? 

“What’s The Economist?” asks Trevor Manuel with a smile when questioned about the newspaper’s recent criticism of South Africa’s Black Economic Empowerment programme (BEE). The article claimed BEE was enriching a tiny black minority, but failing to engineer the broad socio-economic transformation that it intended.

Manuel, South Africa’s planning minister, is no blind follower of ANC policy – recently attracting criticism after chiding his colleagues for blaming South Africa’s woes on apartheid. But he argues that employment equity is a “constitutional imperative”, and criticises the “malignant compliance and foot-dragging” of some companies in the past. 

South Africa has lots of good intentions about black participation in industry – but there are still many practical hurdles.

For instance, the country’s ambitions to give black coal mining companies a greater share of procurement deals seems to be still be a long way off as they continue to battle capital funding hurdles and ‘mind-boggling’ red tape, as a senior industry figure described it.