Beyond business savvy and entrepreneurial spirit, blacks need to develop new skills in order to penetrate the upper echelon of the business world. A message delivered at South Africa’s Black Management Forum on Friday is good advice not only for blacks living in the country, but internationally as well. Investec CEO Stephen Koseff spoke to some of the country’s top black financial leaders, and advised them to push for high level education in the math and sciences, in order to give blacks skills that would be indispensable in the business world.
“There is a dramatic shortage of skills in the hard sciences in this country and, unless we sort this out, we are going to continue to have this problem in the long term,” Koseff said in Johannesburg, the capital. “It’s going to take a long time to repair the ills of our society, but our target is to develop skills.”
Koseff believes that unless South Africa can produce its own strong entrepreneurs and businesses without foreign investments, the country will begin to be less appealing over time in the international market. Within the African-American community things are not much different. Black celebrities are often seen moving into the business world, after developing their backing in other fields.
“We need black skills,” Koseff said, in response to the BMF’s deputy president Tembakazi Mnyaka, who claimed there were not enough blacks involved in core financial sectors such as risk and credit in South Africa. Black risk managers existed, but they were “like gold,” Koseff said, traded back and forth by firms for huge salaries or running their own businesses.
Of the 34,000 qualified and chartered accountants in South Africa, 27,000 are white and 2,200 black, a black percentage of 6.5 percent. But even that is double the percentage of African-Americans who are certified public accountants, which sits at just 3 percent.