Telecommunications & postal services minister Siyabonga Cwele on Tuesday hailed the publication of new ICT sector code for broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE), which he said would help encourage wider and more meaningful black participation in the technology space in South Africa.
Speaking at the launch of a new BBBEE-focused ICT Sector Council in Midrand, Cwele said the code will help overcome the “devastating effects of more than 350 years of colonialism and institutionalised apartheid racism”. It comes three years after government amended the BEE Act and generic codes.
The ICT Sector Council, which was first formalised in 2015, has been tasked with “broadening the meaningful participation of blacks, women, youth and people with disabilities in the ICT sector — not just as consumers but also as entrepreneurs and content producers”, Cwele said. The council has played a pivotal role in developing the new ICT code, which was approved last week by trade & industry minister Rob Davies.
The council functions independently and the reports it produces are processed through the department of telecoms & postal services. Both the telecoms department and department of communications have representatives on the council.
The members of the council are Nokuzola Ehrens (council chair, representing women); Raletlhogonolo Andile Tlhoaele (council deputy chairperson) and Mduduzi Mkhonza (both representing the electronics sector); Katharina Pillay (representing communications regulator Icasa); Lucky Masilela and Sara-Jane Capazario (telecoms sector); Gavin Pieterse and Adrian Schofield (IT sector); Pheladi Gwangwa and Frank Awuah (broadcasting); Morwesi Ramonyai (youth); Richard Charles Poulton, Thulani Tshefuta and Tshepang Lesiba (organised labour); Petronella Linders (telecoms department, representing people with disabilities); and Miyelani Khosa (communications department).
“The advantage of a sector-specific code is that it brings regulatory certainty and enables the sector to maximise its transformative impact by focusing on opening up participation in the sector for designated groups that include women, youth and people with disabilities,” Cwele said. A key difference in the sector code is that the minimum prescribed equity to be held by black people is 30%, versus 25% in the generic code. There’s also greater emphasis on enterprise development and skills development.
Although the code is voluntary, Cwele expects most industry players will subscribe to it. Doing business without conforming to it will be difficult, he said, as many suppliers will insist on some level of compliance to boost their BEE ratings.
The minister said the ICT Sector Council has already produced a “Sector Monitoring Report”, which outlines the status of the implementation of BBBEE in the sector.
“The report reflects the transformation efforts of ICT companies that were gleaned from 200 BEE verification reports. This is a small sample but it provides a good measure of where the sector is in relation to transformation,” he said. “The report shows that the ICT sector is performing poorly on transformation by all measures.”
He urged all the companies in the sector to provide information to the council for future monitoring reports and praised the “broad commitments” made by the industry so far to transformation, and especially to enterprise and skills development.
“It’s always better for the industry to be proactive rather than reactive. I congratulate them for taking that step of being proactive rather than being forced by law. We are one of the sectors that is really moving because there has been some significant work done.”
Cwele said the ICT Sector Council should be seen as an advisory body, there to help companies, rather than as a policeman. “They are there to assist the industry to comply with the law, and will work with the BBEEE unit in the department of trade & industry, which has enforcement and monitoring powers. But the main task will be on assisting our companies.”
He warned that the sector code, and BBEEE more broadly, is crucial to overcoming South Africa’s apartheid legacy.
“We cannot have an economy that continues to exclude the majority. If we are to achieve 5% growth target in the National Development Plan, we can only achieve it if it is not only a few that are participating [in the economy],” he said. — © 2016 NewsCentral Media
- Download the new ICT sector code (PDF)