Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) is one of the most highly regulated aspects of the South African business landscape today. The most recent changes to the regulations have both large corporate businesses and smaller businesses going back to the scorecard drawing board. Louis Coetzee, General Manager of the Ecsponent Development Fund - part of JSE-listed African financial services company Ecsponent Limited - believes this has contributed to inhibiting economic growth and stunting competitiveness in the industry.
“Instead of creating an enabling environment for large corporate businesses to jump start small enterprises’ economic activity, BEE has been counterintuitive. The current structure often results in conflict between efficient procurement and the drivers of enterprise development and social responsibility in corporate South Africa. The underlying intent of broad-based empowerment is lost from sight.”
It was recently announced that the B-BBEE Commission would oversee new and compulsory reporting requirements that include the submission of an annual compliance report for all JSE-listed companies within 90 days of a company’s financial year-end. It is unclear at this time how non-compliance will be measured.
“This is an example of regulation that is compliance based, , which removes the focus from the underlying intention of the social upliftment it wants to achieve. BEE has in many instances led to a strained relationship between corporates and their suppliers. If a business does not deal with Level 1, 2, or 3 suppliers, their own ratings will be prejudiced. The recent changes have forced the hand of many organisations and as a result orders may have well been issued to vendors with the correct BEE credentials but with limited ability to deliver.”
A combination of lack of funding and skills often results in the vendor failing to deliver, with the operations of the corporate compromised. In addition, in some instances resellers are used to ensure compliance with the B-BBEE code, but this can cause margins to be inflated to provide for these resellers. This practice reduces the organisation’s (and ultimately the country’s) competitiveness. This, Coetzee says, just adds to the frustrations of large businesses and the state who carry the cost and efficiency burden.
“One of the biggest issues around BEE regulation is a distinct lack of infrastructure and regulatory cohesion supporting historically disadvantaged vendors. An example of this is the National Credit Act, which has effectively and radically reduced the provision of credit to this sector. Access to capital and skills, combined with an understanding of the procurement dynamics are key elements of supply chain success. These elements are co-dependent and a vendor cannot be successful without support in each one.”
Coetzee believes that while good governance is essential the shortcomings of underlying BEE infrastructure in South Africa result in ongoing negative perceptions when it comes to aspects such as skills, corruption, the racial divide, and a lack of true transformation.
“The South African economy has to be inclusive to survive. Large corporate businesses should be able to focus on their core strategies while the BEE procurement cycle is supported by specialists who work with them to truly transform the market in the country. Education, community upliftment, and true empowerment will be the natural result of this with all the stakeholders involved drawing benefit.”
The Ecsponent Development Fund offers a comprehensive solution to assist businesses in achieving and maintaining B-BBEE compliance standards. In addition to ensuring more reliable delivery and driving socio-economic development it also provides local enterprises with the skills transfer and skills development they need to fulfil their duties and deliverables as preferred vendors.
Coetzee says that that the solution is about linking large corporate businesses and their vendors with an efficient funding and supply chain facility. Currently, there are financing operations in the market that provide financial assistance to vendors. There are also numerous operations that assist with tender applications, procurement negotiation and supply assurance. Ecsponent has combined all these elements. By taking a holistic approach in working with large corporate businesses and their preferred vendors, we have managed to achieve success in both controlling and uplifting. This allows corporate organisations to focus on their core business with complete peace of mind that Ecsponent ensures the delivery.”
“The structure of the Ecsponent Development Fund creates a synergy across the supply-chain, fostering a more trusting environment of mutual benefit with goods delivered, compliance standards taken care of, and vendors being upskilled and empowered,” he concludes.
About Ecsponent Limited
Ecsponent Limited (JSE:ECS), listed on the JSE’s main board under the Financial Services –
Speciality Finance sector, predominantly creates wealth by investing in companies that offer a range of niche financial services in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland and Zambia.
These services vary in different jurisdictions of operation and include capital raising from retail and institutional investors. Additionally, the group’s services include secured business-to-business finance to a select group of clients. In an effort to advance the country’s B-BBEE transformation, Ecsponent also assists large corporate businesses to optimise their preferred procurement spending by uplifting, training and funding their suppliers. This support is helping emerging, previously disadvantaged businesses to develop the skills needed to participate in the economy competitively, while the large businesses have peace of mind that their enterprise and supplier development efforts reach the people they are intending to reach.
While Ecsponent focuses primarily on the financial services industry, it diversifies its investments across multiple industries and geographies by identifying private equity, and mergers and acquisition opportunities with potential for high returns. Currently, the group’s private equity investments are diversified across industries like biotechnology, media intelligence, and mining and engineering supplies.