The words landmark, historic and game-changer are sometimes over-used to characterise events of importance, especially in government.
But if there was ever an occasion where all these descriptions apply, it is this one.
The inaugural meeting of the B-BBEE Advisory Council is a milestone in the long journey we have traversed since the Black Economic Empowerment Commission produced its seminal report 22 years ago.
It bears testament to years of hard work by government, in collaboration with the private sector, to advance progressive legislation to transform our economy.
The establishment of this council is without a doubt a game-changer as we now look to expand the frontiers of B-BBEE as a critical enabler of economic growth and social transformation.
I want to congratulate each of you on your appointment.
You will be advising government, and guiding the trajectory of B-BBEE as we recover and rebuild from years of slow economic growth and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
You will also be:
Reviewing progress around B-BBEE
Advising on the Draft Codes of Good Practice that the Minister will be publishing for public comment;
Reviewing sector charters; and
Providing advice on draft transformation charters such as the Draft Legal Services Charter that will soon be published for public comment.
Minister Patel will be providing a snapshot of areas of work that the Commission will be undertaking and how you will put your programme of work together.
We know that the terrain is vastly different from the racially-skewed economy we inherited in 1994.
With regards to B-BBEE and employment equity, there has been substantial progress with regards to the representation of blacks and women in the workplace, including in senior management, in both the public and private sectors.
The deliberate efforts of government to transform our economy has resulted in more black South Africans and women owing and managing businesses, and having stakes in large companies.
The worker shareholder regime continues to improve. Small businesses also continue to benefit from preferential procurement by the state, and receive a range of support to grow and expand.
At the same time we know we are not as far as we hope to be, and that is why the work of this Council will be critical.
When we speak about the next frontier we are talking about a new vision for B-BBEE; that builds on successes, that learns from shortcomings, and that is both agile and adaptive in response to the realities of the national and global economies.
In this year’s State of the Nation address I called for a new consensus to achieve higher rates of economic growth, social transformation and advance common prosperity.
Consolidating B-BBEE is one of the aspects such a consensus will rely upon. There can be no growth without economic inclusion. There can be no inclusive recovery and reconstruction unless B-BBEE is at the center of our efforts.
It is our expectation that this Council will assist us as government to enhance the implementation of B-BBEE and associated policy such as the Codes of Good Practice, the Sector Charters, and recent instruments like the DTIC’s Black Industrialists Programme and Worker Ownership requirements.
Between you, you have a range of experience, from working in state-owned enterprises, to private companies, to SMME’s, to public procurement, to serving as regulators on B-BBEE, competition and trade policy.
I have no doubt that this expertise will be brought to bear as you undertake your work, in collaboration with the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition and other departments.
Next year we will mark 20 years since the promulgation of B-BBEE legislation. As we journey towards this occasion, we want to see the Council at the forefront of advocacy campaigns, especially to counter negative narratives that are gaining traction around B-BBEE.
We also want you to join us in championing initiatives like the Black Industrialists Programme. We are looking forward to hosting the Black Industrialist Conference later this month.
You assume your duties at a challenging time but I have no doubt you are up to the task. I wish you well and look forward to getting to know you better.
With these few words I would now like to invite Minister Patel to address us.