Being part of the "born free" generation I've grown up with change. South Africa is in a very fluid time which brings both challenges and opportunities. Our economy is certainly going through fundamental changes at the moment. Maybe it's just the social circles I associate myself with, but I think young white owned businesses are thriving in this new environment. How can this be? With all the laws affecting business in South Africa this is the last thing one would expect but it looks to be true. Here's my opinion as to why:
South Africa's work and business environment today is full of pit falls and animosities when it comes to race. Competence and skill has been replaced by skin colour as the main determining factor with regards to employment in the corporate world. Which has had a interesting effect on the new white generation. More and more we're realising that the large company corporate world is closed to us. We've had to change the way in which we think of ourselves in terms of employment and business. Adapt and overcome. Either become highly skilled or create your own job. Personally, it's been hard. I wasted two years after graduation trying to get myself employed in a business environment that only sees colour. It got me thinking of what the ANC government was trying to do with SA.
Instead of trying to train up the next generation of black business men and women, the ANC is creating a business culture of parasites and cronyism. No nation ever got wealthy by demanding wealth from others. If you're not the driving force, don't expect to forge ahead. If you're not a wealth creator, don't expect to be wealthy.
With BEE and AA, the ANC has tried to tip the business environment in the black population's favour. I feel this is short sighted and will ultimately have a negative effect on black wealth as a whole. It reminds me of the old parable of, "give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, he'll never go hungry". Currently we're giving away fish with the BBE policy. Sure we have a few shining success stories but mainly it's not cultivating the desperately desired "black entrepreneur". Instead it's creating a culture of entitlement. An attitude that states, "I deserve this job because of my skin colour, you owe me".
Towards the end of my two year job search I read a quote to the effect of: "The surest way to stay impoverished, is to believe someone owes you a better life". It was then that I had my "light bulb" moment. No one was going to help me, but me. Three years after that day I owned my own successful small company. I can proudly say that today, my firm employees six full time professionals at salaries that command respect. My annual turnover is strong and rising.
I feel a huge sense of pride in my fellow white South African business men and women. Even though the game is stacked against us, we've adapted, evolved and overcome the challenges. There's a reason white business is the main economic driving force in SA. I give credit to our perseverance and determination. No one is going to help us, but us.
If the ANC government ever wishes to see the black entrepreneur as a major engine of economic growth, they need to stop their current practices and focus on individual business skill development and entrepreneurial confidence. Otherwise we'll never see the dawn of a black business age. BEE is a crutch, it's holding our economy and the black business man back.
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