|Actualising Empowerment -
BEE Getting More Professionalised?
it W. Edwards Deming or Peter Drucker who
said: ‘you cannot control what you cannot
measure’? Whoever the source of this
wisdom was, he might as well have been talking
about BEE is South Africa.
Increasing the participation of black people
in the mainstream economy is a noble goal
to strive towards. Knowing whether we have achieved
it, however, is hard to tell if we do not agree
on which indicators to track. Is it black ownership,
management control, black representation in the
workplace, skills development, procurement, enterprise
development or socio-economic development? ...
Advocates of broad-based BEE argue that all these indicators
are important; and they are right because BEE cannot mean
the same thing to all black people. Some of them merely
want secure jobs; others long for procurement business
or opportunities to make a success of their businesses
through enterprise development. Of course, there are always
the deal-makers lurking in the background to conclude those
transactions we read about in the headlines.
South African leaders are not in agreement over the extent
to which BEE has delivered on its promise of a better economic
life for black people, i.e. African, Coloured and Indian
South Africans who were citizens on 27 April 1994 – when
the new constitution took effect.
One of the reasons for the discordant views on the success
or failure of BEE is the lack of a common set of standards
for measuring it. For instance, is black ownership essentially
linked to economic benefits or voting rights or both? Should
skills development expenditure be recognised even if the
training does not lead to the career-advancement of black
people? What form of proof is acceptable when verifying
blackness? An ID document, passport, affidavit or a mere
In the absence of standards, there cannot be professionals.
Without professionals, those issuing BEE certificates inadvertently
serve as public relations agents for those enterprises
they are supposed to inspect. While the Department
of Trade & Industry (DTI) is finalising the standards
and procedures for the verification of BEE credentials,
various rating agencies are spewing unreliable BEE verification
certificates, on which other organisations are basing procurement
decisions. Therefore, when a company or state-owned enterprise
claims to have spent R800 million or whatever percentage
of its procurement budget on black suppliers, anyone who
knows anything about BEE need not get excited. Still, life
must go on; we all hope against hope that the inaccuracies
in the measurement of BEE credentials are not that gross.
This is why it is heartening to read about Vuyo Jack,
founder and director of Empowerdex, collaborating
with the Graduate School of Business at the University
of Cape Town (UCT) to present a course, termed ‘Experiential
BEE’. The course is intended to ‘enable
businesses to map their BEE path under new BEE Codes of
Good Practice, gazetted in February this year’,
according to the website of the university.
Says Jack, ‘the focus will be on experiencing
how BEE is working in businesses in SA, the challenges
being faced, and the solutions being developed’.
Jack is a prolific writer and speaker on BEE.
This initiative should be a good start in establishing
a more professional framework within which to implement
BEE. In the same breath, one should caution that because
the DTI is still finalising its standards, those
attending this course should be as dynamic as BEE is. Treating
it as anything final will only leave them with a sense
of loss or confusion when finality comes.
In spite of all the changes that are bound to follow,
South Africa is surely on the road to more professionalism
in measuring BEE; and that is a good thing.