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Title: Small business development as a strategy for empowerment in post-apartheid South Africa
Author: Agupusi, Patricia C.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2692 3364
Awarding Body: University of East Anglia
Current Institution: University of East Anglia
Date of Award: 2010
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Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) is one of the most contested transformation programmes of post-apartheid South Africa. The empowerment process was the result of centuries of disempowerment of the majority of the population, a process intensified and institutionalised when the National Party came to power in 1948. Due to the bargained transition, however, the first phase of BEE was driven by the private sector with minimal government intervention. At this point it was primarily focused on equity transfer, ownership and the promotion of blacks into management positions. As a result of heavy criticism and the collapse of a number of BEE companies during the 1997-8 economic crisis, there were strong demands to redefine the programme to achieve genuinely broad-based empowerment, and for government intervention to support it. This resulted in the Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment Act of 2003. Based on the understanding that the political and economic system has shaped various policies in post-apartheid South Africa, this study takes a political economy approach to examine the development of black-owned small business as a strategy for the empowerment of the majority. It is structured into three interlinking parts. The first provides the historical context, examining the foundations of the present empowerment process. The second explores the trajectories of power that led to the policies of small business development and broad-based economic empowerment. The third considers the implementation process through the investigation of national and provincial empowerment institutions, private sector participation and the extent to which an entrepreneurial culture exists in South Africa. Taken together these seek to answer the primary question of how the political and economic system is affecting the development of black-owned enterprises for broad-based empowerment. Methodologically this research adopts a critical realist approach, and utilises triangulation techniques to analyse multiple sources of evidence, such as the critical deconstruction of various written sources including legal, archival, media and policy documents. Primary data was acquired through a qualitative approach combining observation, informal interactions; formal in-depth interviews with key informants, and seminars and conference notes. A case study approach has been used to give detailed explanations of some of the complex causal relations in real-life and empowerment interventions. This approach helps link theoretical discourses on empowerment, policy and entrepreneurship in the study framework with the realities of the political and economic interactions in the empowerment process. The findings of this study show that contrary to general assumption, ideology and economic interest rather than race shaped the two policies. Even though the BBEE policy process was completely carried out by blacks, it has still retained its minimalist approach. The policy document portrays two ambiguous approaches: a broad-based strategy that targets a few and a broad-based strategy that targets the majority. However, the mechanism for implementing the programme favours the former. The implication is that rather than an integrated approach to developing black-owned businesses that recognises the diversity of the disempowered group, the process takes a macro and market-oriented approach to empowerment that is focused on promoting small, medium and large enterprises, and is therefore not yielding a genuine empowerment dividend for the majority of the targeted group. Although there is an indication that empowerment could reach the majority at the grass-roots level through micro enterprises and the cooperative movement, insufficient resources are being invested in this sector. Finally, the limited political engagement of civil society organisations is contributing to the continued neglect of the majority of disempowered blacks in the empowerment process.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available