Victor Kgomoeswana, author of Africa is Open for Business, urged the Black Management Forum (BMF) on Wednesday to champion a ‘buy black’ campaign that would address transformation by leveraging the 70% majority of black economically active participants in South Africa.
This was mooted instead of relying exclusively on positive discrimination in the form of employment equity, which has been limited in its impact. He said black people should buy products and services primarily from black people and black-owned businesses.
Said Kgomoeswana: “If all of us sitting here can say ‘I have a black dentist, a black gynaecologist, a black architect, a black electrician, a black plumber… I buy my groceries from a black-owned supermarket; I buy my car from a black-owned dealership; I watch movies by black directors…’ (then we will start to see real transformation).”
This, he said, is how black people would achieve self-reliance, instead of waiting for corporations to put them in managerial positions in order to comply with a broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE) scorecard.
Standing in the way of creating this environment, he said, is a lack of black consciousness among black people and a tendency of wanting to distance themselves from poverty (and the black people associated with it) once they themselves had been elevated through affirmative action. Employment equity would be much more effective once those in higher positions realise they have a responsibility to achieve the transformation agenda, first, at a personal level, and then at an organisational level, he said.
“The starting point for black consciousness is self-reliance. The starting point for the BEE scorecard is compliance (which can be manipulated). You will only be respected by white corporates in South Africa when you can prove that you can do your own thing,” he said.
Another hard-hitting example he made was that of how many black people are counted as being middle class only because of their spending power, and not because of the assets they have.
Said Kgomoeswana: “This country was built on the foundations of a thriving gold mining sector. But how many people in this room own an ounce of gold in the form of a Krugerrand, worth around R15 000? I don’t mean to be offensive, but many more of us will have 15-year-old Glenfiddich in our cupboards instead. Can you imagine if 40 million black South Africans each owned an ounce of gold? Then you can start a bank.”
The ‘buy black’ app
Chairperson of BMF Sandton Tshepo Marumule said his branch is already working on an app to make it easier for those who want to ‘buy black’. The app will tell people where to find black plumbers, doctors, electricians and others, and allow consumers to rate the service received.
“It’s something we’ve been working on after hearing people who have said they want to buy from black people but can’t because they are either too far, or simply because they cannot find them. If we leverage the collective buying power of black people then perhaps we can start seeing real transformation. Because BEE has proven to have failed for the last 21 years.”