South Africa’s Economic Empowerment Program Seeks to Address Inequality

7941417122_a3bbe459a6_oJOHANNESBURG —Having won this year’s election with more than 60 percent of the vote, South Africa’s ruling ANC party — in power for 20 years now — is under renewed pressure to help the country’s poor Black majority.  Thuso Khumalo, director of South Africa’s Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment program, as well as experts, have differing opinions on whether this program can ease inequality in South Africa.

From 1948 to 1994 South Africans suffered under apartheid, a brutal segregation system imposed by the country’s white minority.  Under the system, indigenous Africans and other non-whites were forced off their land and driven into Bantustans, areas where they were totally disconnected from the country’s economy.

Since winning power 20 years ago, the ANC has struggled to fix the inequalities created by the system.  Twenty-three million of the country’s 51 million people still live below a poverty line of $58 per month, and more than 16 million of these are surviving on government grants.

In addition, whites still control 80 percent of the country’s land and 90 percent of the top 100 companies in the Johannesburg stock exchange.

This has caused anger among the country’s Black majority, who blame the government for failing to ensure they have a fair share of the country’s economy.

But the government said its revitalized Black Economic Empowerment program, now under the new name – Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment – was the answer to these challenges.


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