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"BEE failure": BEE was a quick win, now the hard work starts

To expect the BEE programme to succeed within the space of one generation, and without a strategic plan for broad based empowerment - not only in an economic sense - is plain silliness. The so-called "failure of BEE" which is currently in the news originates from a KPMG audit of large companies BEE scores this last week. This failure proves that economic empowerment alone is not enough to allow broad inclusion in South African business.

While the idea of BEE as a rectifier of legacy Apartheid imbalance is fundamentally correct. However, the devil is always in the detail. Thus the first version of BEE did not do enough and now apparently also the version 2.0 Broad-Based BEE is failing. Working on the ground and in schools in impoversihed areas, we see the reason for this. Everyone wants a "quick win". In IT business we speak of "quick wins" when we want to implement a speedy interim solution with a very visible effect. It's an interim solution because the infrastructure required to make the solution work sustainably has to catch up, or the quickly written code does not comply with standards. Quick wins are very important, because they keep managers off your neck (they have something to show) and the development team has gained confidence.

In the same way, the BEE song has kept the public appeased for a while and the developers of South African society have had some time to go forward with deep changes. These changes are coming along too slowly. Especially in the Eastern Cape and in the Eastern Cape education department we have seen very few, very slow advancements. Infrastructure and educational quality is sadly lacking. And without education only a very brittle broad base can be developed, if any at all.

With a strong and educated broad base, programs like the BBBEE and BEE will truly have the chance to achieve what they set out to do. Balance Apartheid injustice.

Posted: September 7th 2008 01:12

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