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Why BEE benefits blacks the least – Vivian Atud

Vivian AtudAccording to the latest data from New World Wealth, BEE and affirmative action policies are working to uplift the previously disadvantaged – but black Africans aren’t the ones reaping the most benefit.

The data showed that, while the country has seen its black African millionaire population increase by 277% over the past 15 years, the Indian population actually had the largest increase in wealth. South Africa is home to approximately 46,800 millionaires (HNWIs with net assets over US$1 million) as of December 2014-the report showed, with combined wealth holdings of US$184 billion.

Looking closely at the numbers- Indian millionaires in SA increased by over 400% since 2000 to reach approximately 6,500 at the end of 2014, whilst the number of African millionaires in SA has gone up by a lower 280% during the same period to reach only 4,900 millionaires.

The report concluded that “while BEE and AA policies are working, they are abnormally benefiting the Indian community”. Looking at the demographics, despite the fact that the Indian population is only 3 percent of the SA national population-it now constitute 14 percent of South African Millionaires.

Contrary to popular believes that white wealth is being transferred to blacks- white South Africans still account for the most millionaires in the country – almost 70% of the total millionaire population. The percentage of White millionaires also showed a 69 percent increase over the 10 year period considered in the report. Since the year 2000, white Millionaire population has effectively doubled

SA Millionaires, 2014

Group Millionaires, 2014 %
Whites 32 100 69%
Indian 6 500 14%
African 4 900 10%
Other 3 300 7%
Total 46 800 100%

SA Millionaire Growth

Group Millionaires, 2000 Millionaires, 2014 Growth
White 16 300 32 100 97%
Indian 1 200 6 500 442%
African 1 300 4 900 277%
Other 1 100 3 300 200%
Total 19 900 46 800 135%

looking at the report, the question is: ” Why has BEE benefited blacks the least?” I would not attempt to answer this question in full as it is more complex than what the figures can show. However, mindful of the fact that the outcomes that we see in any economy are as a result of the policies implemented by governments, one may dare to say that BEE policies in their current form despite their good intention have not resulted in intended outcomes. The evil triplets inequality, poverty and unemployment continue to impact  the country.

Since the transition to democracy in 1994, the government has set out to redress the inequalities of the past through AA and BEE laws. The government has continued to amend the laws in a bit to realise the desired outcomes of real empowerment of blacks. However, a majority of backs are yet to benefit from these policies. While governments have the power to legislate, the outcomes on the population are a matter of economics. Business and individuals will always act in line with incentives or disincentives created in the business environment by government. Everything being equal, business and individuals will act to maximise their own good. Governments can legislate BEE and affirmative action. However, governments cannot legislate who actually takes advantage of business opportunities and create wealth.

In closing, i think government need to rethinking BEE to shift away from enrichment to real broad based empowerment. Empowering blacks in skills that matter in the job market would be key to significantly empowering blacks economically.

The current patterns of wealth accumulation in South Africa, in my view is not a chance event, we can make conscious choices to promote growth and employment and empowering the majority of the people.

Article by Vivian Atud, This article was first published by news24

Vivian Atud is an economist and market analyst. She is currently a director and partner at Atud and Associates- a registered Financial service Provider in South Africa. Vivian holds an M.Com degree from Wits and has wide range of experience within the African markets. Before Joining Atud and associates- Vivian worked as an economist with a Leading SA think tank with experience in economic policy analysis, research, writing and market analysis. Vivian is passionate about real transformation and intends to continue to write articles that will change mind-sets about investments and financial markets. Vivian is a regular commentator on economic and financial market issues on major South African media.

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1 Comment

  1. Reza Khan

     /  May 18, 2015

    This is a very skewed and biased study that purports to show that BEE is not working. The reality is that Blacks have beneffitted enourmously over the last 21 years. There are a group of well off black Africans that dont want to work hard and only want to complain and have an entitled mentality. millionaires is not the correct standard to see if blacks are empowered or not. The ordinary man in the street need to feel that his live has improved. This is still far from happening to the maximum to alleviate the plight of poor,but it is happening. If more are made available to ordinary people than we will see progress. This study is also racist in orientation as it does not show the Coloured population as an acknowleged part of South Africa. The Black elite should stop compare themselve with the whites , who has been looting the coffers of this land for 3 centuries but should rather work for overall black poverty alleviation, education, and positive experience of a crimeless, non violent ,better standard of living .

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