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Corporate SA betraying black youth says Gugu Ndima

June 28, 2015

Corporate SA must be held accountable for its absence from the transformation agenda…

There’s an advert on television that vividly demonstrates the haughtiness of corporate South Africa. The advert vaunts the richest square mile in Africa, Sandton. It boasts about the development of Sandton City and its surroundings and the years of investment it took to see this realisation.

This square mile in Africa houses prominent institutions that were implicated in the currency-rigging scandal, major multinational corporations that are milking the economy, not just in South Africa but on the continent, as well as the most influential members of society.

Sandton is also home to an institution facilitating billions in the global flow of capital, the JSE Securities Exchange.

Sandton affirms and demonstrates benefit from development; it’s an animate blueprint of the muscle of capital, the power of venture capitalists and a micro reflection of South Africa’s wealth in monetary and material terms.

The richest square mile stands right across from its organic contradiction, a stone’s throw away: one of the poorest communities and oldest townships, Alexandra; a township that has provided labour for decades to see the infrastructural development of this economic grandeur.

This contradiction is glaring as Sandton fast becomes a world pioneer of First World development in a Third World country and Alexandra remains a reminder of structured ways of perpetuating uneven distributions of income and wealth.

This is just a micro reflection of the inequalities and income gaps that characterise South Africa and the continent. The biggest casualties of these stark socio-economic disparities are young people who find themselves trapped in the perilous cycle of poverty patterns to which their mothers and fathers were subjected.

As we celebrate Youth Month, this is an opportune time for candid reflections on how many young people remain destitute and despondent, drowning on the periphery of the economy, while the biggest beneficiaries of democracy continue to thrive and flourish in the very same economy.

Those who are below the age of 35 constitute about 66 percent of the population. Of more than 54 million South Africans, 18.5 percent are in the 10-19 age group and 24 percent in the 15-24 group (StatSA, mid-year population estimate).

Africans are in the majority in these age groups. These are young Africans trapped in townships with no hope or prospects of a better life. They are victims of systemic exclusion from the mainstream economy by Corporate SA.

The obligations and duties of developing and empowering the youth don’t lie solely with the government. The private sector must come on board. It’s overdue.

The government can change the face of Alexandra, the streets and the houses. However, for the long-term sustainability of an economic drive, capital must change the heart and body of Alexandra.

If a fraction of the billions flowing in Sandton, through corporates and the stock market, were channelled into Alexandra, we would create millionaires of the future.

If, however, the elite of Sandton do not wish to invest in Alexandra, then the young people of Alexandra must be afforded opportunities so they may participate in the immediate economy of Sandton one day, not just as labour but as decision-makers at Corporate Sandton.

The managements of corporations in this elite square mile don’t even represent the country’s demographics, 20 years into democracy.

With the amount of money pumped into places such as Sandton City, which doesn’t necessarily provide for the majority of South Africans, it’s evident that corporations – such as that which was bold enough to fund the advert – could easily transform the lives of many young Africans if it had the will or intent.

Young entrepreneurs, especially blacks, are struggling to penetrate the mainstream economy.

They are not funded by private- sector institutions.

An association of rich chief executives from Corporate Sandton decided unwittingly to mock the community of Alexandra. A charity initiative was launched to encourage them to sleep out of doors to raise funds for Girls & Boys Town.

They didn’t sleep in Alexandra, but in the streets of Sandton. In a day R24 million was raised.

The R24m could easily have become a fund for businessmen and women of the future in Alexandra. The money could provide tuition fees for at least 50 children who are in Grade 12 to complete degrees in institutions of higher learning in the next four years.

The mockery of the event or initiative is no different from the charity organisations that perpetuate perceptions that young Africans are charity cases.

The youth of this country are not looking for shelters, blankets, homes and condescending tokens of charity to ease the conscience of white-collar criminals.

They seek entry into the economy, they seek education and recognition just like their white counterparts get. The black youth of our country have been relegated to mere seekers of employment. The assumption is that all African youth seek and strive for jobs. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Young people must not shy away from making uncomfortable demands on the private sector.

Black people are relevant only as employees or passive share-scheme beneficiaries. Even the culture of transformation isn’t one that has been holistically adopted by the private sector.

This obdurate insolence shows that policies such as affirmative action and employment equityare imperative and should be made more rigid to secure the future and inheritance of the black child. Young people should be running and operating franchises of major corporations, even owning some. Young whites are not subjected to such scrutiny and torment if they wish to venture into business or be employed. Profiles of skills levels among African youth insinuate that whites are better skilled.

The private sector invests in white institutions and schools.

This is evident from their open days – the exposure to major corporations while they are at institutions of higher learning or high school. Yet the same investment is wanting in townships such as Alexandra.

Corporate SA must be held accountable for its absence from the transformation agenda and efforts to transform the economy.

Capital must gain consciousness of its surroundings, and our generation must not be apologetic about it. This is our generational mission.

*Ndima is an ANC Youth League member.

Source: Sunday Independent

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