President Cyril Ramaphosa says it is undeniable that South Africa has made gains in transforming a skewed and racialised economy.
“Today, there are well over 300,000 black entrepreneurs who own over half of all small businesses in the formal sector,“ he said on Wednesday.
In addition to the progress in management, shareholding and ownership of businesses by black and women South Africans, there has also been substantial progress made in employment equity.
“As we reflect on this progress, we must also critically examine areas where transformation has been slow and implementation has been weak,” said President Ramaphosa at the inaugural conference currently underway at the Sandton Convention Centre.
The President noted that as the conference recognises and celebrates the successes of the Black Industrialists programme, it needs also to set out what our responsibilities are – individually and collectively – to advance inclusive entrepreneurship in the country.
He said the country’s black industrialists strategy is underpinned by two core commitments. This was to secure greater diversity in ownership and control in the economy, which is crucial for economic dynamism and social solidarity as well as a commitment to promote emerging enterprises to drive inclusive industrialisation.
“Our strategy aims to ensure that we secure greater representivity across the economy, all the while generating greater prosperity and employment. Over the past six years, the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, the Industrial Development Corporation, the National Empowerment Fund and other agencies have supported approximately 900 black industrialists.
“Estimates by the Industrial Development Corporation suggest that the socio-economic returns of this programme have been even more far-reaching. This includes supporting and creating some 55,000 jobs and adding over R160 billion to our country’s GDP,” President Ramaphosa said.
The inaugural Black Industrialist and Exporters Conference will showcase the progress of government measures in promoting access and transformation to more black industrialists in the economy and the opportunities that the Africa Free Continental Trade Area (AfCTA) offers.
The conference will also highlight how broad-based empowerment enables growth and job-creation strategy, specifically on the value it adds to the economy.
The programme has to date empowered over 800 black industrialists inclusive of new entrants, women and youth in competitive industries.
President Ramaphosa said small businesses continue to benefit from preferential procurement by the state and receive support to grow and expand.
“These successes are testament to a shared commitment to transformation, and to deepen collaboration between the state, the private sector and other actors in the economy. And yet as much as we are working to achieve the vision of the Freedom Charter that all shall share in the country’s wealth, we have not yet overcome the structural defects of our economy,” the President said.
He added that self-employment and entrepreneurship are the engines of growth and job creation in any economy.
“They support innovation, boost competitiveness and bring new products and services into an economy. To a large extent, this entrepreneurial deficit is the legacy of the policies of the past. But 28 years into democracy, there are still barriers preventing black entrepreneurs from meaningful and equitable participation in the economy,” he said.
He said these barriers are particularly challenging for women, youth and persons with disabilities and are particularly challenging for entrepreneurs in townships and rural areas. This as these entrepreneurs have difficulty accessing finance, markets, technology and infrastructure.
The President also spoke of red tape and other bureaucratic obstacles.
“On a wider scale, there is also the concentrated nature of the economy and ownership patterns, and exclusion from major value-chains.
For this reason, even as we celebrate black entrepreneurial success, our eyes must look towards the horizon. While we are here to deliberate on learnings from the Black Industrialists Programme and other initiatives, this conference is also about shifting the transformation agenda into higher gear.”
The President also spoke of the country’s energy challenge saying this is being addressed.
“In particular, we need to act decisively and urgently to end the load shedding that is causing such damage to our economy and such disruption to our society. Like every other actor in the economy, black industrialists can simply not grow without a reliable supply of affordable energy.”
Much has been done over the last four years to transform the country’s energy landscape and bring new generation capacity online.
“But that is not enough. And we need to move faster. That is why I have brought together all relevant departments and entities to work on an integrated set of measures to add additional power to the grid in the shortest possible time.
We are currently engaged in consultations with social partners on these measures, and will soon be able to announce a package of measures that provides an effective response to our energy crisis,” he said.
The conference will hold six high level panel discussions on assessing the impact of Broad-based empowerment, strengthening the impact of transformation, facilitating transformation, the role of supplier development and procurement, challenges and opportunities with financing black industrialists, promoting exports and the AfCFTA and Master Plans to promote economic inclusion and Quantifying the impact of BEE.
Panellists will include Ministers, leaders in business, civil society and prominent black industrialists.
The conference will also maximize the opportunity for delegates in attendance to meet with potential funders, customers and suppliers.
Prior to giving the keynote address, President Ramaphosa, accompanied by some Cabinet Ministers and business representatives, conducted a walk-about at the stalls erected at the conference venue by the various companies showcasing their products and services.
President Ramaphosa will later this evening hand over awards to outstanding black industrialists at the Presidential Awards for Excellence dinner. – SAnews.gov.za