10 Mar Portfolios of the Poor

This blog has been inspired by a book written by Daryl Collins titled with the same heading. In this book, the author’s opening line is that public awareness of global inequality has been heightened over the years. The question, any caring and thinking person should ask, if there is such a public awareness, has anything been done to tackle the inequality. I would like to argue that, this is also the same in South Africa. South African citizens are aware of poverty, some may choose to ignore, some may want to talk about it, some may live in it, some may live next door to it and some may actually act upon.

In the post-apartheid South Africa, the government and corporate South Africa have embarked on reducing the rates of poverty, but the trends do not point to a win. If the trends continue in the wrong direction, the South Africa we pride ourselves in today, may be completely a different South Africa in a short period – anecdotally, some believe in the next 10 or 15 years if nothing is done. The challenges of poverty, affect all, it affects the poor (i.e. low living conditions) and government directly (i.e. constant service delivery strike), and it affects corporates South Africa also. I will leave the reader to think on how poverty affects corporate South Africa.

I have to admit that it is fundamentally difficulty to tackle poverty and answers to the questions relating to how do you tackle poverty are also difficult. Do we start with education opportunities? Do we focus on infrastructure? Do we focus on growing small businesses? Tackling poverty requires an integrated strategy with each participant in the solution understanding their role play. Policymakers, government and corporate South Africa seeking to confront the issue of inequality need to have a clear strategy.

From policy perspective, the DTI has gazetted the new Codes of Good Practise and BBBEE as one of the ingredients and as Empowerment Capital we believe this is a starting point. Corporate South Africa has also participated in this process that involved rigorous consultation. The financial resources that corporate South Africa has agreed to make available can make a difference if channelled correctly.

The financial resources need to be channelled in a way that create a long and sustainable impact to ordinary South Africans. The old ways of “ticking a box” haven’t worked and to continue in this trajectory will be catastrophic for us all. If channelled correctly, South Africa can achieve GDP growth rate above 5% and more. Corporate South Africa should partner with like-minded ESD Fund Managers that truly believe in transformation and the future of South Africa.

At Empowerment Capital we believe in transforming South Africa through high social impact investments in which corporates can measure the return on their allocated Enterprise and Supplier Development (“ESD”) funds. We are to partner with corporate South Africa and government in order to tackle the inequalities that persist in society. Let’s empower one another through mutual partnership as we tackle the issue of inequality.

By: Moeketsi Mokuoane

Executive Director of Empowerment Capital Investment Partners (Pty) Ltd

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