White Consultants ‘Colonising BEE’

White Consultants ‘Colonising BEE’

SINCE Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) was introduced in Namibia, the concept has become a slippery and amorphous catchphrase for politicians, journalists and academics of various ideological persuasions.

Yet, the concept is elusive and ill-defined. Even the Government has not come up with a clearly defined BEE strategy.Why is it that most of the so-called empowerment companies are initiated by white consultants and investment bankers? These whites constitute the management and appoint blacks to non-executive positions to make them more acceptable and gain access to Government contracts.In short, white consultants have become the kingmakers in so-called BEE companies.As a result, the majority are being excluded from benefiting from empowerment and the State is not being accountable to its needy citizens.Rather, it is empowering currency speculators.At the moment Namibia’s approach to BEE is taking the black entrepreneurial, managerial and professional class as its unit of analysis of black economic empowerment, which is wrong Why? This approach makes only a few black businesspersons “filthy rich”.It’s largely a class creation project, the promotion of a new class of wealthy and powerful Namibian movers and shakers.Emerging black entrepreneurs have used their political connections to increase their income, wealth and asset base.For them BEE means acquiring shares in previously white-owned businesses or establishing a joint venture between black and white entities.No wonder many newspaper headlines on BEE have focused on share acquisition by the emerging black business bourgeois.We often find the black equity stake is in the minority.Can such companies really be called BEE companies? The answer will be a resounding NO if we look at the definition of black economic empowerment.The current approach to BEE in Namibia reinforces white control over the economy and provides marginal access to the ownership structure of the corporate sector for a few blacks, instead of access to employment, skill development and training, finances, information, etc.Despite the media hype about economic growth, growth without redistribution to black Namibians who were disempowered, incapacitated and marginalised, in diverse ways, under apartheid would likely result in socio-economic and political instability.This in turn would have a negative impact on the economic realm.In conclusion, BEE can be both tragic and naive if there is empowerment without collective solidarity and advancement of the black community.Black business people, professionals and managers should avoid this elite isolation by constantly affirming their support and solidarity with workers and the black community.BEE should be part of the overall transformation and democratisation of the Namibian state and society and not only of the few.The enrichment of a few individuals should not be referred to as economic empowerment.In other words all black Namibians should share in the fruits of economic empowerment.This is what I call shared empowerment.Having achieved political power, the economic sphere becomes the most critical source of real power for blacks and business ownership and, with the eradication of poverty, is the ultimate manifestation of economic liberation.Its success depends on an activist state that will articulate a clear vision of BEE and mobilise society around it.Comrade Tate, Windhoek (Name and address supplied)Even the Government has not come up with a clearly defined BEE strategy.Why is it that most of the so-called empowerment companies are initiated by white consultants and investment bankers? These whites constitute the management and appoint blacks to non-executive positions to make them more acceptable and gain access to Government contracts.In short, white consultants have become the kingmakers in so-called BEE companies.As a result, the majority are being excluded from benefiting from empowerment and the State is not being accountable to its needy citizens.Rather, it is empowering currency speculators.At the moment Namibia’s approach to BEE is taking the black entrepreneurial, managerial and professional class as its unit of analysis of black economic empowerment, which is wrong Why? This approach makes only a few black businesspersons “filthy rich”.It’s largely a class creation project, the promotion of a new class of wealthy and powerful Namibian movers and shakers.Emerging black entrepreneurs have used their political connections to increase their income, wealth and asset base.For them BEE means acquiring shares in previously white-owned businesses or establishing a joint venture between black and white entities.No wonder many newspaper headlines on BEE have focused on share acquisition by the emerging black business bourgeois.We often find the black equity stake is in the minority.Can such companies really be called BEE companies? The answer will be a resounding NO if we look at the definition of black economic empowerment.The current approach to BEE in Namibia reinforces white control over the economy and provides marginal access to the ownership structure of the corporate sector for a few blacks, instead of access to employment, skill development and training, finances, information, etc.Despite the media hype about economic growth, growth without redistribution to black Namibians who were disempowered, incapacitated and marginalised, in diverse ways, under apartheid would likely result in socio-economic and political instability.This in turn would have a negative impact on the economic realm.In conclusion, BEE can be both tragic and naive if there is empowerment without collective solidarity and advancement of the black community.Black business people, professionals and managers should avoid this elite isolation by constantly affirming their support and solidarity with workers and the black community.BEE should be part of the overall transformation and democratisation of the Namibian state and society and not only of the few.The enrichment of a few individuals should not be referred to as economic empowerment.In other words all black Namibians should share in the fruits of economic empowerment.This is what I call shared empowerment.Having achieved political power, the economic sphere becomes the most critical source of real power for blacks and business ownership and, with the eradication of poverty, is the ultimate manifestation of economic liberation.Its success depends on an activist state that will articulate a clear vision of BEE and mobilise society around it.Comrade Tate, Windhoek (Name and address supplied)

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