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Last Updated: Friday, 23 April, 2004, 22:41 GMT 23:41 UK
Young South Africans' empowerment dream
Shola Olowu byline pic
By Shola Olowu
BBC News business reporter

Skyscraper in Johannesburg
Big business now has to spread ownership to black entrepreneurs
Menzis Sithole is 22 years old and already knows exactly what he wants to do with his life.

He's one of the "Born Frees" - the generation of South Africans that has grown up in the country's fledgling democracy.

For the older generation of South Africans, the freedom has failed to deliver on expectations.

The gap between rich and poor has widened, unemployment has risen to around 40 percent and HIV/Aids affects about one in nine of the population.

But in the post-apartheid era, young people like Mr Sithole have big dreams.

"I'm looking at introducing a restaurant into the township," he says.

"We're looking at reinstating black African culture in terms of how we eat as black people and how we celebrate and meet every day."

Helping the disadvantaged

But even in the New South Africa black participation in the wider economy remains limited - and now the government has devised a policy to level the playing field and realise its vision of an economy open to all by 2014.

I'm certain that BEE enhances the chances of young black entrepreneurs - especially because the younger generation tends to be more adventurous
Victor Kgomoeswana, Ernst & Young

The Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) Act, signed into law in January this year, targets those who were previously disadvantaged under apartheid.

That includes not only the black majority, but also the Asian community, those of mixed race and some white women as well.

Companies will be rated on the level of black ownership, the number of black executives, the level of procurement from black firms, skills transfer and social investment.

The idea of legislated black empowerment initially met with hostility and fear among white executives, but months of negotiations has led to the agreement that more must be done to redress the wrongs of apartheid.

Skills gap

South Africa is still struggling with the legacy of white minority rule, which left millions of blacks with few skills and little education.

A street market in Johannesburg
Young businesspeople may start small, but have confident dreams
At the same time university education, which costs on average 13,000 rand (1,100; $1,900) a year is out of the reach of most black South Africans.

But over the past five years Johannesburg's CIDA city campus, a not-for-profit university, has provided higher education to hundreds of students.

Chief executive Taddy Blecher says he only offers one degree, a BA in Business Administration, but students will graduate with both qualifications and practical skills they can use in the real world.

"What we really need to do is create self sufficiency in people, build business and have people be able to educate and feed their children," he says.

"So for us only two things are going to change Africa - higher level education and entrepreneurship."

Young entrepreneurs

South Africa's inability to create jobs is one of the biggest disappointments of the post apartheid era, despite tough policies adopted by the government which revitalised the stagnating economy and eventually led to growth of 2.5% a year.

CIDA's premises in Johannesburg
CIDA is hoping to help young black entrepreneurs develop
Victor Kgomoeswana, Ernst & Young's empowerment consultant, believes black economic empowerment will create jobs and drive economic growth as a new generation of entrepreneurs emerge.

"I'm certain that BEE enhances the chances of young black entrepreneurs - especially because the younger generation tends to be more entrepreneurial, more adventurous," he says.

"They tend to grab these opportunities better than the older generation."

Shola Olowu's reports on South Africa's economy can be seen on BBC World at 2030 GMT.


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