Black Economic Empowerment

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Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) is a racially selective programme launched by the South African government to redress the inequalities of Apartheid by giving certain previously disadvantaged groups (Blacks, Coloureds, Indians, and Chinese who arrived before 1994)[1] of South African citizens economic privileges previously not available to them. Although race is the overriding factor, it includes measures such as Employment Preference, skills development, ownership, management, socioeconomic development, and preferential procurement.


After the transition from Apartheid in 1994, it was decided by the government of the African National Congress that direct intervention in the redistribution of assets and opportunities was needed to resolve the economic disparities created by Apartheid policies which had favoured white business owners. BEE intended to transform the economy to be representative of the demographics, specifically race demographics of the country. BEE was defined in the 2001 Commission Report as follows,

"It is an integrated and coherent socio-economic process. It is located within the context of the country’s national transformation programme, namely the RDP. It is aimed at redressing the imbalances of the past by seeking to substantially and equitably transfer and confer the ownership, management and control of South Africa’s financial and economic resources to the majority of its citizens. It seeks to ensure broader and meaningful participation in the economy by black people to achieve sustainable development and prosperity."

— BEE Commission Report, pg. 2

Successful implementers of BEE also see it as a means to create economic growth in South Africa, and as vital to advance their corporate strategy.

The BEE programme was implemented starting from 2003. It was criticized for benefiting only a narrow stratum of previously disadvantaged groups, and this led in 2007 to the introduction of a modified programme called Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment or B-BBEE.


On 9 February 2007, the new Codes of Good Practice of the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment were gazetted by the South African Government.

This included the following Codes:

  • Code 100: Ownership
  • Code 200: Management & Control
  • Code 300: Employment Equity
  • Code 400: Skills Development
  • Code 500: Preferential Procurement
  • Code 600: Enterprise Development
  • Code 700: Socioeconomic development
  • Codes 800 – 807: Qualifying Small Enterprises

The following sector scorecards have also been gazetted (in terms of section 12):

  • Financial Sector Scorecard[2]
  • Construction Sector Scorecard[3]
  • Tourism Sector Code[4]

Also gazetted were general guidelines and definitions, among which, the definition of the beneficiaries of BEE. The definition is the same as that of the Black Economic Empowerment Act of 2003 which states that "black people" is a generic term which means Black Africans, Coloureds and Indians and included provisions to ensure that they must have been South African citizens prior to 1994.[5] The fact that Chinese individuals (some of whom were classified as Coloureds under Apartheid, others as honorary white), who were also submitted to legal discrimination prior to 1990 (but exempt from the Group Areas Act as of 1984 when the Group Areas Amendment Act was promulgated), have been excluded as beneficiaries of black empowerment, has led to a renewed media debate regarding the definition of "black" in current legislation.[6] As of 2008, Chinese people have been reclassified as "black" after the Chinese Association of South Africa took the South African government to court and won.[7]

The BEE legislation is supported and functions in conjunction with various other forms of Legislation, including the Employment Equity Act, Skills Development Act, Preferential Procurement Framework and others.

The legislation was developed through numerous task teams and have taken more than 3 years to be gazetted since the first Act (December 2003) and the first Codes of Good Practice released in November 2005 which addressed Statement 100 and 200. Subsequent Codes were released in December 2006 addressing Codes 300 to 700. Based on public and stakeholder comments, the final codes were adjusted and gazetted.[8]

On 11 October 2013 updates to the Codes of Good Practice of the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment were gazetted by the South African Government. These new Codes provided for a transitional period of 1 year 6 months. The changes include the consolidation of duplicate elements such as Employment Equity and Management Control and Preferential Procurement and Enterprise Development. The new Codes have increased the effort of compliance, by introducing priority elements; Ownership, Skills Development and Enterprise Development. The points allocation system includes sub-minimum targets thresholds of 40% for these priority elements, failing to achieve the thresholds result in penalties of dropping the compliance level.

The updated Codes were as follows:

  • Code 000: Framework for Measuring Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment
  • Code 100: Measurement of the Ownership Element of Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment
  • Code 200: Measurement of the Management Control Element of Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment
  • Code 300: Measurement of the Skills Development Element of Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment
  • Code 400: Measurement of the Enterprise and Supplier Development Element of Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment
  • Code 500: Measurement of the Socio-Economic Development Elements of Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment

Sector scorecards were given until March 2015 to submit sector charters.


Enterprises may be rated based on various scorecards, however only the following have been gazetted as of February 2007:[9]

The last two, Financial Sector scorecard and Construction Sector scorecard, have not been passed into law. They were gazetted under section 12 of the act, which is for comment only. They will need to be gazetted in terms of section 9 of the act to become an official sector code. Until that happens all enterprises falling in these two industries are required to use the codes of good practice in producing a scorecard.

Significant leniency for Small Enterprises has been built into the gazetted codes. Based on the Qualifying Small Enterprises Codes, all companies with a turnover under R5 million p.a. is completely exempt from BEE and automatically qualifies as a level 4 contributor or achieves 100% BEE Contribution Recognition.

The generic broad based scorecard. All seven pillars must be addressed totalling 100 points

Note: This table is outdated and will be replaced by the revised BEE Codes of October 2013[10]

Element Weighting Compliance Targets
Ownership 20 points 25%+1
Management Control 10 points (40% to 50%)
Employment Equity 15 points (43% to 80%)
Skills Development 15 points 3% of payroll
Preferential Procurement 20 points 70%
Enterprise Development 15 points 3% (NPAT)
Socio- Economic Development 5 points 1% (NPAT)

Qualifying Small Enterprises (those with an annual turnover from R5 – 35 million) are rated on the following scorecard and may choose any four of the pillars to address, totalling 100 points

Element Weighting Compliance Targets
Ownership 25 points 25%+1
Management 25 points 50.1%
Employment Equity 25 points (40% to 70%)
Skills Development 25 points 2% of payroll
Preferential Procurement 25 points 50%
Enterprise Development 25 points 2% (NPAT)
Socio- Economic Development 25 points 1% (NPAT)

Ictiandro Simba


Small businesses, generally with a turnover of less than R5m, are considered to be Exempted Micro Enterprises and do not need to be measured against the BEE scorecards as stated above.

However, these businesses are often forced to employ people based on skin colour to avoid discrimination by potential clients,[citation needed] who (if having a turnover larger than R5m) are generally still subject to BEE regulations on choosing business partners, suppliers or service providers.


Critics argue that BEE's aim was to attempt to create equality of the workforce of South Africa as a whole by enforcing the advantaging of the previously disadvantaged and the disadvantaging the previously advantaged. This results in businesses having to consider the race and social background of any potential applicant instead of making decisions purely based on qualifications and experience,[11] resulting in a system in which one's race is often the determining factor in finding employment.

Instead of using this type of policy, it has been shown by critics[who?] that a policy of qualification equality should be used. This would allow businesses to focus on employing the person with the highest qualifications, the most experience and the best recommendations. To allow previously disadvantaged individuals to achieve these qualifications and experience, critics of BEE say that the government should place more emphasis on secondary and tertiary education, as well as subsidising companies wishing to employ entry level applicants, or fund tertiary education for students from previously disadvantaged communities.

In response to criticism, the South African Government launched Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment which is the current gazetted framework for addressing Black Empowerment beyond enriching a few, but with little effect.

BEE has also been criticised for creating a brain drain, where the qualified white expertise is emigrating to countries where they would not be discriminated against. Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi is a strong critic of BEE and supports this view. He has stated that "the government's reckless implementation of the affirmative action policy is forcing many white people to leave the country in search of work, creating a skills shortage crisis".[12] Warning that South Africa is sitting on a "powder keg," Archbishop Desmond Tutu argued that Black Economic Empowerment only serves a few black elite, leaving millions in "dehumanising poverty".[13]


  1. "Chinese are declared to be Black, so are Chinese Fully Black?". BEE Partner, South Africa Economy Watch. Retrieved 2008-06-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Codes of Good Practice on Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment – Financial Sector Charter" (PDF). Department of Trade and Industry. Retrieved 2007-08-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Codes of Good Practice on Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment – Construction Sector Charter" (PDF). Department of Trade and Industry. Retrieved 2007-08-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Codes of Good Practice on Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment – Tourism Sector Codes" (PDF). Department of Trade and Industry.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Codes of Good Practice on Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment – Schedule 1, Interpretation and Definitions" (PDF). Department of Trade and Industry. Retrieved 2007-08-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]
  6. Vuyo Jack (29 April 2007). "Chinese people fall in grey area of BEE scorecard". Business Report. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "S Africa Chinese 'become black'". BBC News. 18 June 2008. Retrieved 2011-06-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "The BEE Codes of Good Practice". Department of Trade and Industry. Retrieved 2007-08-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "BB-BEE Codes of Good Practice" (PDF). Department of Trade and Industry. Retrieved 2007-08-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. News Daily, 24 May 2004
  12. "Buthelezi slams affirmative action". Mail & Guardian. 1 February 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Tutu warns of poverty 'powder keg'". BBC. 23 November 2004. Retrieved 2009-11-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

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