In 2001, an event was held at the Sandton Convention Centre to report and table the Black Economic Empowerment Commission report. The commission was the initiative of the Black Business Council.
For many years, it was my view that outside of the constitution, the BEECom report was a must-read for South Africans. Now we can add the National Planning Commission report to the list of must-reads.
But back to the convention centre. During one of the breaks in the programme, a small group gathered to engage a senior cabinet minister, leading to an animated discussion. There was an air of excitement, which was pierced when this minister said: “Black man, you are on your own!”
This quote implied some caution: in spite of all the levers of power and persuasion that future legislation and policy could provide, it would remain the burden of those discriminated against and disfranchised for centuries to determine their evolution and economic freedom.
The above sets the scene for thoughts on transformation in the ICT sector through anecdotal experience in the recent past.
A previous piece on TechCentral touched on the imperative to promote digital literacy among the majority of our people if they are to participate in the fourth Industrial Revolution. A crucial contributor in the value chain of transforming technology and its benefits to the average person in Khayelitsha is the entrepreneur, from small to midsized companies who practice in the ICT sector and who are on the ground.
So, how has the landscape changed in recent years for black-owned and black-managed ICT companies? Alas, the aforesaid quote from the senior cabinet minister and its caution, expressed in 2001, has proven to be prophetic. Not much has changed, in spite of much change. Mention was made in a previous piece that the past influences the present – it appears, anecdotally, that the present is the past.
Enterprise development is one of the measures used to rate an entity on their broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) certificate. Skills development and capacity building are key to emerging black-owned companies to deliver value as they sell their products and services to the market.
Technology is often sourced from multinational vendors that are unable at most times to boast about their ownership measures. So they have what is called “equity equivalence” as part of the BB-BEE policy. A large slice of this is measured on how these multinationals assist emerging players in skills and capacity development.
It is our perspective that enterprise development programmes are a means to scoring rather than implementing programmes that are able to scale and become sustainable.
A major international cloud technology provider exudes enthusiasm about its enterprise development programme in its quest to earn equity equivalence points. After we applied and showed interest for this programme, it was not what it seemed.
Skills and capacity development is done through the company’s proprietary technology. Qualification to benefit is managed by one of their partners, white owned, which determines if the proprietary technology of this international company can be consumed by us and whether we could resell their solutions exclusively to “contacts” we have.
The wrappings around all of these enterprise development programmes are simply not changing the landscape
Another major company has outsourced its enterprise development programme to a separate management company. This major company nominate its BEE suppliers to enrol in the enterprise development programmes managed by the outsourced entity. This separate company manages the entire process of needs analysis and appoints other service providers for various development programmes such as technology skills development, strategy and change management. Many of the role players who deliver on the enterprise development are, again, white. They may have a BB-BEE certificate, but their delivery personnel is not transformed.
The wrappings around all of these enterprise development programmes are simply not changing the landscape.
In spite of legislation, policy and monitoring, the ICT sector has not really transformed to deliver any value to our average person in Khayelitsha.
These two practices of obtaining enterprise development points by so-called well-meaning players provides credence to the former minister’s statement that “black man, you are on your own”.
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- The author, Dr Hasmukh Gajjar, is CEO of mobiLearn
- This views expressed in this article are Gajjar’s and not are not necessarily shared by TechCentral
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