Ramaphosa calls for transformation ramp-up at black industrialists' conference

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President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the inaugural Black Industrialists and Exporters Conference.
President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the inaugural Black Industrialists and Exporters Conference.
Photo: Daily Sun
  • President Cyril Ramphosa opened the inaugural Black Industrialists and Exporters Conference on Wednesday.
  • In the past six years, the Black Industrialists Programme has supported 900 black industrialists.
  • But, says Ramaphosa, black businesspeople still face major challenges.
  • Get the biggest business stories emailed to you every weekday, or go to the Fin24 front page.

President Cyril Ramaphosa says while black-owned businesses have received support amounting to some R55 billion over the past 11 years, black businesspeople remain sidelined and transformation efforts must be ramped up.

Over the past six years, the Black Industrialists Programme, through the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, the Industrial Development Corporation, the National Empowerment Fund, and other agencies, has supported 900 black industrialists.

The programme was approved by the government in 2015 and the inaugural Black Industrialists and Exporters Conference, which Ramaphosa opened on Wednesday, is meant to reflect on its performance. 

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The government's preferential procurement programme has also been beneficial to small business owners, he said. Worker shareholder schemes continue to improve, with companies that provide the stock ownership employing at least 450 000 workers, Ramaphosa added, saying the programme was testament to the commitment to drive transformation and the partnership between government, the private sector and other parties.

"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," he said.

These "defects", the president said, were evidenced by the country's high unemployment rate. Apart from the country having a high jobless rate overall, unemployment is also disproportionately high among black people, with black women worst affected.

Black businesses, in addition to being "stifled", were concentrated among townships and former homelands, he said, and unequal land ownership patterns impeded the growth of the black agricultural sector. 

This further led to a legacy of poverty, since black children then couldn't inherit housing, businesses, or capital.

And for those who ventured into entrepreneurship, obtaining loans, licences and premises was difficult, particularly for women.

Some of these issues continue to affect entrepreneurs in townships and rural areas, who struggle to gain access to markets, funding and technology and infrastructure, while navigating bureaucratic obstacles like red tape.

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He told the more than 1 000 delegates that the purpose of the conference is to ramp up transformation efforts because black entrepreneurs continue to face economic barriers due to concentration, ownership patters, and exclusion from major value chains.

"What we want to see from this conference is the makings of a new, improved trajectory for broad-based black economic empowerment," said Ramaphosa.

He further called for proposals on how capacity and resources can be used to aid transformation, while also pointing out that there needs to be "frank" discussions about government and private sector hurdles to the growth of black businesses. 

The conversation should also include reforms in telecommunications, energy and water to improve South Africa's competitiveness, the improvement of the country's ports, rail lines and roads, as well as taking decisive action to urgently end load shedding.

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"In conclusion, I wish to thank Minister [Ebrahim] Patel and his team for convening this inaugural Black Industrialist Conference. Through this conference we want to establish a practice of recognising and celebrating black excellence in the economy," Ramaphosa said.

In his introduction of the president, Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition Ebrahim Patel welcomed all the delegates, including CEOs of 650 black owned businesses, as well as export company owners. 

"Last year, off the back of the commodity boom, South Africa achieved a record performance, exporting R1.8 trillion, representing almost one third of our GDP. Some of the exports came from black-owned firms present here today," he said.

Patel added that the conference also serves as the launch of a black exporters network, aimed at increasing export volumes and creation jobs.

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