The Namibian empowerment landscape has fascinated me for the last five years or so. My interest was piqued when Hartmut Ruppel called me from Windhoek and asked me to help with a BEE issue at a mine in Namibia. Since then I've read everything I could get my hands on about TESEF and NEEEF and Namibianisation. Last week I chaired a two day conference on the New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework in Windhoek. The speakers make up some of the finest minds on the subject and included both Namibian and South African speakers. The South Africans were there to specifically speak about their experiences in South Africa, the Namibians gave us an insight into NEEEF as a policy and where it's headed. Here is a very brief summary of the conference.
Anund Mudhoo – Ministry of Finance
Anund is a Mauritian who is on a three year contract to the Ministry of Finance. He's been tasked with drafting new procurement regulations based on international standards. He proved to be a very entertaining speaker and a great start to a conference. His presentation took us through the international procurement standards and then told us what Namibia could expect. I think the final draft will look a little similar to South Africa's PPPFA. NEEEF goals could be tied to this. It's not clear whether they'll use a preference points' system. We can expect something in about February 2014.
Mihe Goamab II – Namibian Economic Society
Mihe is a much respected BEE/TESEF/NEEEF commentator in Namibia. He has a very commanding presence and put together a strong argument as to why Namibia has decided to call NEEEF "new" and "equitable". The arguments are contained in his presentation which I have attached. But the gist of his presentation focused on the competitiveness of the country and how NEEEF can enhance this competitiveness. This presentation could be delivered in any country in the world that has a sort empowerment redress process.
Felicity !Owoses-/Goagoses – Ministry of Justice
Felicity was introduced as Felicity Smith. If you are new to clicks in a language then you might also struggle pronouncing her surname – and she coached me for a good 20 minutes to get it right. Felicity's presentation focused on the legal status of NEEEF. And she concluded that the policy is just a policy and has no legislative nor corporate backing. We debated as to whether NEEEF could filter through the economy like it has in South Africa which was driven by the private sector. It doesn't appear that this will work. NEEEF needs a champion and it's lacking that champion.
Vilbard T Usiku – Employment Equity Commission
Vilbard is powerpoint phobic and so presented a paper on the history of suppressing black Namibians in the workplace. As with Mihe, Vilbard's presentation could be delivered anywhere where apartheid existed. He put forward a convincing argument as to why the Affirmative Action Act still has a while to travel.
Bob Kandetu – Trustco Group International
Here is a person who tells us that he was fired as the head of the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation. His slide presentation was a single slide and he spoke for an hour on his topic. It's almost impossible to capture the essence of his presentation which was on Transparency and Good Governance. A very experienced man with a great view on the world. There was one line from his presentation that I wrote down. "The absence of integrity breeds a lack of transparency which leads to corruption." At least we know that South Africa is not alone in the corruption sphere (although they have set a very high standard for other corruptors to beat). He finished off his presentation with this paragraph.
In closing, please allow me to if only cursorily, make a remark on the very document that brings us together - NEEEF. This seems to be a good attempt at providing an overarching structure to this effect. I however find it rather loosely drafted and rough on the edges. Also, I think, that it seems to be drafted in a vacuum as it does not depart from a history of other transformational empowerment programmes such as Black Economic Empowerment, Youth Development and Empowerment, Women Development and Empowerment just to mention a few. For this reason, a contextual overview of these attempts would have been of material assistance, reflecting what did we do in the past 22 years of addressing the ill and deficiencies we set out to eradicate since independence. What are reports telling us about what worked and did not work? An opening overview would have given the reader better insight of what we are attempting to achieve and why. I thank you. (Written September, 2013).
Kershini Govender – Nedbank South Africa.
Kersh's presence at this conference is my doing. I recommended someone from Nedbank Namibia and they obviously recommended her. The striking thing about her presentation and Nedbank's overall BEE strategy is that you can't separate BEE from the company's actual growth strategy. They are intertwined. Not only are they intertwined but they are built on a lot of serious thought and research. She made reference to a number of business strategists from Jim Collins to Kaplan & Norton and John P Kotter (who is my current favourite). The result however is a unique strategy for the South African banking environment. A fantastic presentation.
Francois Kuttel – Oceana South Africa
Francois Kuttel caught the red eye from Cape Town to Windhoek to present at the conference and then returned the same day. He is the CEO of Oceana so obviously Oceana's empowerment status is very important to him. He's perhaps most famous for going to the high court to establish what being empowered actually means. His presentation was a indepth discussion of Oceana's empowerment and most specifically how to deal with conflicting pieces of legislation – his issue is the allocation of fishing licences. His recommendation is simply to use an "easy, simple, robust way to measure your transformation".
Ashnie Muthusamy – Sun International South Africa
The similarities between Ashnie and Francois abound. Both caught the red eye and returned the same day and both have to deal with the allocation of licences. In the case of Sun International they require gambling licences in different provinces – which is a complete nightmare. We were told how each provincial division is required to submit its own BEE scorecard (a group one won't do) and that often the gambling authority wants to double check the information that was used to make up the verification certificate. They also have to be a level 2 at all times which is something they have achieved. The new codes pose a substantial threat to them because their level will drop and it's likely that the gambling authority will be somewhat unsympathetic.
Unfortunately I missed this presentation. I'll try and get some more on this
I've attached both. The first one discusses BEE and how far it's come. We must remember that BEE in South Africa exists in spite of the government and DTI assistance or involvement. I'm convinced that it's been a remarkable success and that the cabal of concernees (read BBC and Advisory Council) have a very narrow agenda that requires BEE to look like a failure.
The second presentation uses John P Kotter's 8 reasons why a transformation process fails. Kotter is mostly concerned with corporations but the reasons can be easily incorporated into a national transformation strategy.
There were three conclusions
- NEEEF is a policy and no more. There are some companies that produce NEEEF scorecards because they feel it is a competitive advantage. But without some pressure from the government nothing is going to happen.
- A transformation policy that must apply to the whole economy needs something like preferential procurement to make it work. NEEEF assumes that government procurement will force companies to comply but all that will happen under these circumstances is that a handful of compliant companies will become agents for those that don't. And it will only be those few that do comply.
- There is no comprehensive definition of a Previously Disadvantaged Namibian yet.
I will certainly be back in Windhoek again. Invite me to your next conference.