South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa
President of the Black Business Council, Dr Danisa Baloyi,
Leadership and members of the Black Business Council,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honour and always a privilege to be invited to address the Black Business Council.
Since its formation, the Black Business Council has been at the forefront of the struggle for economic emancipation.
It has championed not only the interests of its members, but the interests of the majority of South Africans as they struggle to liberate themselves from the burdens of our past.
We gather here at a critical moment in the development of our young democracy.
Our economy is currently under great strain, affected by both global and domestic pressures and by the lasting structural constraints of the apartheid economy.
Our political life is fractious, with public sentiment appearing to be more polarised and public discourse more charged – and more shrill – than at any other time since 1994.
There is discord within the democratic movement itself, with different formations adopting opposing positions on key issues of the day.
We must be honest enough to admit the depth of the political, economic and social challenges our country faces.
And we must be courageous enough to recognise the domestic and global conditions that give rise to these challenges.
But courage also resides in acknowledging the subjective factors – issues that are a consequence of our own action or inaction – that aggravate the situation.
We must be prepared to recognise that even amid the great difficulties we now confront, there is progress, there is development and there is hope.
Even as we struggle with a low growth rate and even as we come to terms with the causes and practical impact of recent ratings downgrades, we should not lose sight of that fact that work is being undertaken across the economy to boost investment, expand our productive capacity, improve our skills levels and develop our economic infrastructure.
At the same time, we are witnessing greater collaboration and cooperation between social partners on critical economic issues.
There is a growing acceptance among all social partners that it is only through collaboration that we will achieve sustainable growth that increases employment and improves livelihoods.
This has been evident over the course of the last year in the Presidential CEO Initiative to build confidence in the economy and reignite growth.
The partnership between government, labour and the country’s leading CEOs arises from a recognition that we need to mobilise the skills, capabilities, energy and, importantly, resources of all sectors of society.
It arises from a recognition that we need not only to agree on a common programme for growth and employment, but that we need to undertake concrete actions to achieve rapid, meaningful results.
The agreement that was reached between social partners on a national minimum wage and labour stability – in which the Black Business Council played a critical role – signalled the determination of the social partners to work together to address even the most difficult challenges in our society.
From these initiatives, and from several others, we see emerging the seeds of a social compact for inclusive growth.
We all have a responsibility, wherever we may be located, to ensure that we do not squander this opportunity through reckless or self-centred actions.
Working together, we defeated the tyranny of apartheid subjugation and racial exploitation.
Our triumph was a moral victory for all blacks and whites, men and women, young and old, who envisioned a South Africa at peace with itself and the world.
For more than two decades, South Africans from all walks of life have been working to build a united, equal and caring society from the ruins of racial oppression.
But each day as we walk our streets, drive in our cities or visit the rural hinterland, we realise that our long walk to freedom is far from over.
For as long as poverty remains endemic, for as long as large swathes of our youth remain unemployed, and for as long as levels of inequality remain among the highest in the world, our people will not be free.
More than two decades into democracy, the face of poverty remains black and, in particular, African.
Many of our people still experience social marginalisation and economic exclusion.
They desire training opportunities and want to work to be able to take care of themselves and their families.
They want access to land and the means productively to farm it or otherwise utilise it for their own benefit.
They want to own factories and start enterprises to employ others.
They want the promise of a better life for all to be fulfilled now.
To fail them would be a betrayal of their confidence and a dereliction of our responsibility towards the Constitution.
The call for radical economic transformation seeks to address these fundamental issues.
Even as some people may want to deploy the concept to pursue selfish personal objectives – or simply to cast aspersions on the revolutionary credentials of others – radical economic transformation has substance and meaning and relevance.
It is a response to the needs of the people.
It is a national imperative.
There is nothing abstract about radical economic transformation.
It is fundamentally about inclusive growth.
It is about building a more equal society.
It is about drawing into meaningful economic activity the one-third of working age South Africans who currently languish on the outside of the economic mainstream.
It is about a massive skills development drive that prepares young South Africans for the workplace of the future.
It is about fundamentally changing the ownership patterns of the economy, at a faster rate and in a more meaningful manner than at present.
It is about giving effect to the demand of the Freedom Charter that the people shall share in the country’s wealth.
As the ruling party prepares for its 5th National Policy Conference in June, we have an opportunity to give greater substance and detail to the concept of radical economic transformation.
The economic discussion document that is currently being debated in the structures of the movement – and which has been published for broader engagement by all sectors of society – outlines the policy path the ANC has taken, identifies key economic priorities and challenges and puts forward several proposals to further transform the economy, create employment and advance inclusive growth.
The document notes that inclusive growth requires that we redistribute agricultural land on a far larger scale and at a far quicker pace; and that we properly equip the new owners of that land to farm it productively and sustainably.
It is precisely because the legacy of land dispossession has been so devastating and enduring – responsible in large measure for the widespread poverty, inequality and underdevelopment of the present – that the current discussion on land redistribution is so critical, so timely and so fundamental to the success of our democracy.
For this reason, the ANC policy document proposes, among other things, that the Constitution’s commitment to ‘just and equitable’ compensation for the acquisition of land for land reform purposes should be codified and replace market-based valuations of land.
As we are all aware, the National Development Plan identified agriculture and agro-processing as significant potential drivers of growth and jobs.
With a few key interventions – such as the expansion of irrigated land, higher levels of commercial production and improved support for small-scale agriculture – it estimated that this sector could create up to a million new jobs by 2030.
Radical economic transformation requires also that we leverage our massive infrastructure investment more strategically and more deliberately to build local manufacturing capacity.
The policy document argues that, where appropriate, set-asides should be put in place to ensure contracts are made available for black-owned companies.
This should be part of a broader effort to benefit from the massive infrastructure programmes that will take place across the African continent for several decades to come.
South Africa, working together with other African countries, should develop the capacity to supply what these projects need.
Radical economic transformation requires that we create a new generation of black industrialists.
Government, through its development finance institutions and other agencies, is putting significant resources into this effort.
To date, the Department of Trade and Industry has approved over R1 billion in grant finance to 36 projects undertaken by black-owned and managed businesses.
Together, these projects have a combined project value of over R3 billion.
The private sector needs to support this programme, whether through provision of additional funding, the transfer of skills and technology, or providing access to supply chains.
This programme, once it reaches scale, will both contribute to the reindustrialisation of our economy and help redefine our approach to black economic empowerment.
Black business people will no longer be mere minority shareholders in established business.
They will be producers and financiers.
They will start their own businesses and they will run them.
If we are to change ownership patterns, we need to create opportunities for new black entrants into sectors of the economy currently dominated by a few players.
We need to use our competition law more directly to lower barriers to entry and prevent anti-competitive behaviour.
To this end, the ANC proposes in its policy discussion document that a detailed investigation be undertaken into the underlying structure of the economy “in order to recommend ways to reduce and remove barriers to entry and dismantle monopolistic and oligopolistic structures in certain key sectors”.
As we pursue a more inclusive economy, we need also to ensure that communities and employees have a stake through mechanisms like employee share ownership schemes and profit sharing.
We need to address, as the policy discussion document does, the significant challenge of youth unemployment.
Among other things, it suggests massively increasing access by young people to vocational training and apprenticeship programmes.
It says that vocational training must be proclaimed as the official ‘developmental mandate’ of all large state owned companies, and that government, business and labour must create at least one million internships in order to bring more young people into the labour market.
Deracialising the economy means leveraging the procurement spend of the state – and of the private sector – in a fair and transparent manner to promote black and women-owned businesses.
Priority must be given to ensuring black ownership in emerging sectors of the economy, such as in natural gas and the ocean’s economy.
Underpinning all these measures is a concerted effort to significantly increase the level of investment in the economy.
Recognising that policy certainty is key for long-term investment, the ANC policy discussion document says government should conduct an audit of the policy and regulatory constraints to investment and set a clear timeframe for addressing them, “linked to Ministers’ performance contracts”.
In the immediate term, investor confidence will be boosted by continuing to contain our national debt, preventing further investment downgrades, improving the governance and financial position of state owned enterprises, and maintaining international norms and standards in the regulation of the financial sector.
In truth, the work of radical economic transformation is already underway.
What is urgently needed is systematic action by government, in partnership with other social partners, to increase the scale and level of our interventions.
In others, where we have encountered problems, we must move with speed to find innovative ways of resolving them.
We need more focus, more collaboration.
We need to mobilise more resources, use the resources we do have more effectively, and eliminate all forms of wastage and rent-seeking.
We invite all South Africans, including civil society and business, to work with all political leaders to address fundamental differences in a manner that is constructive and that builds a united nation.
This is a time for trust building. It is a time for building bridges.
It is a time for each one of us, whatever our station in life, to act in the interest of our society.
It is a time to prioritise the cries and suffering of the marginalised and the poor through policies and actions that promote sustainable and inclusive economic growth, effective redistributive measures and ethical management of public resources.
We urge all South Africans to be seized with the task of our time to end poverty, unemployment and inequality.
On 26 June 1955, the representatives of the people of this country adopted the Freedom Charter, declaring:
We pledge ourselves to strive together, sparing neither strength nor courage, until the democratic changes here set out have been won.
Today, more than half a century later, we must pledge ourselves that we will not compromise on the vision of the Freedom Charter.
We will not compromise on the restoration of the wealth of the country to the people as a whole.
We will not compromise on equitable land ownership.
We will not compromise on social justice and the pursuit of equality.
We will not compromise on our commitment to the values of our Constitution and to the advancement of equal human rights for all.
We will not compromise on the goal of gender equality, genuinely infused into everything we do across society.
We will not compromise on our promise to ensure every child is schooled and that no person is denied quality education because they cannot afford it.
We will not compromise in our fight against corruption, patronage and rent-seeking.
We will not allow the institutions of our state to be captured by families and individuals intent on narrow self-enrichment.
We will not allow the formations of the democratic movement, our symbols, our history or our policies to be appropriated in pursuit of factional interests or in attempts to hoodwink the public through revolutionary-sounding slogans.
We will continue to work together to build a South Africa which belongs to all who live in it, black and white.
We will continue to work together to ensure that the people share in the country’s wealth.
In brief, we will continue to pursue a programme of radical economic transformation for shared and inclusive growth.
I thank you.