Why BEE benefits blacks the least

According 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 figure and the reality of inequality, poverty and unemployment impacting the country one may make the following points.

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.

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.



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