With more and more emerging black industrialists, the future looks bright

The black industrialists conference was held in Sandton last week. File Picture

The black industrialists conference was held in Sandton last week. File Picture

Published Apr 8, 2024


Since the inception of the Black Industrialists Programme nine years ago, there has been a need for renewed commitment towards industrialisation, not only to influence the economic sphere of people’s lives by raising income and employment opportunities but also the social and cultural life with increased opportunities for education, housing, public health and infrastructure development for economic growth.

The sustainability of our democracy, peace and stability will depend on the success of success of such programmes.

During interaction with fellow industrialists at the recent Black Industrialists and Exporters Conference at the Sandton International Convention Centre last week – which was hosted by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC), the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and the National Empowerment Fund (NEF), it became clear that by incorporating new processes, industrialism boosts productivity, increases employee competencies, creates jobs and boosts economic growth.

Last week’s day-long conference and an award ceremony in which I was honoured with The Legacy Black Industrialist Award, provided a platform to exchange ideas, knowledge and information on the achievements of the black industrialist’s programme since 2015, as well as the challenges and opportunities presented by the programme.


It was significant that there were 200 black industrialists representing more than R10 billion in turnover in an array of sectors, including aerospace and defence, agro-processing, food and beverage automotive, capital equipment and machinery and healthcare and pharmaceuticals.

The conference featured 53 large companies or procurers who made pledges to buy from the growing class of black industrialists.

The truth is the Black Industrialists Programme remains a work in progress and is close to my heart. I have spent my entire business life asking myself how we can build successful and entrepreneurial black industrialists with effective local and international business partners to further strengthen us and also build sustainable flourishing black owned enterprises. I have no doubt that as catalysts for national, provincial and local financial prosperity, black industrialists deserve a lot of attention and support.


There is no doubt that over the years, the government has instituted several reforms to address bureaucratic constraints in the business environment and drive black industrialisation, but this is stifled by vagaries of factors embedded in an unstable world economic environment, including the dearth of basic infrastructure, policy inconsistencies and financing initiatives among others.

Reflecting on the historical journey of black industrialists since 2015, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the auto sector has set clear targets, including R1bn over five years for small-scale black farmers; new legislation that increased the powers of the competition authorities to act against abuse of dominance or commercial practices by large firms that keep small businesses and black South Africans out of markets; several large companies have made around R2.4bn in funding available for supplier development and the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area, which brings together a vast market on the continent.

Of course, we all lament the often dilapidated infrastructural base, challenged road networks, inefficient railway system, load-shedding and under-developed and unstable water supplies as well as other critical challenges confronting black industrialisation growth. We require renewed vigour in addressing these.


During the black industrialist era, we recognised that we needed to develop specialised industries and manufacturing belts to not only create employment and transfer technologies but also to reduce import dependency.

We are fortunate that we are the tip of the African continent and are a transit point serving the regional economies by offering good connectivity.

That is why the trade, transportation, logistics, tourism and retail sectors can boost black industrialisation faster than the manufacturing and industrial sectors in its service-driven economy.


Through education, our country creates a human capital base that is able to create goods and offer relevant services. Regrettably, since we are part of the global village we face competition in recruitment of highly skilled individuals.

Education fulfils human needs. Once we fulfil human needs, we improve the quality of life of our people and restore their dignity.

Of course, the government is a facilitator to build black industrialists for education, training and experience. The painful reality is that we may have government policies in place, but the reality is that we need to work harder and harder to acquire practical, business and entrepreneurial skills.

Practical skills are required. This is the combination of training and experience that enables a potential industrialist to fulfil the core function of his or her business and to understand the processes involved in producing a quality product or service.

Business skills are equally important to ensure that the company is run on a sound financial basis and in compliance with legal and regulatory frameworks. Many independent enterprises with good products or services flounder because stock control, the debtors’ book and cash-flow management aren’t as sound as they should be, or because there are problems with labour management.

For example, a Grant Thornton Survey once found that regulation and red tape were cited by 45% of business owners in South Africa as the biggest constraint on the growth of their business, the second greatest threat for South African business owners was the lack of a skilled workforce.

Entrepreneurial skills - the combination of risk-taking, vision, and innovation, is what an individual entrepreneur or entrepreneurs bring to the enterprise, and it is the talent for business that differentiates one from another.

While we need practical, business and entrepreneurial skills to build black industrialists, there are challenges which are out of the control of industrialists, such as eliminating red tape and commitment to attract investors and make our country a preferred investment by taking proactive and practical steps to develop and transform the economic base, reduce poverty and create prosperity for the citizenry.


While skills development is important for industrialisation, there has been a recognition that telecommunications infrastructure and services, in the age of information and transnational communication (ICT), are linchpins of industrialisation, the backbone of business activity, productivity, trade and social development.

Indeed, mobile telephones and other ICT infrastructures are just a few examples of how ICT is changing how people communicate, become informed or do business. The high cost and capacity in rural areas remains a challenge.

Therefore black industrialisation is dependent not only on adequate skilled labour, government policies and facilitation, but also effective implementation of ICT policies. Whether the business is a big or small company, ICT and good practical skills begin with education or training from a technical college, trade school or university, and are strengthened by on-the-job experience and further post-experience training.

They are the foundation on which an enterprise’s product or service offering is built and are essential to its long-term success of black industrialisation.


Skills development, eradication of government red tape, and business opportunities can help alleviate poverty and eradicate extremism from society as inequitable distribution of resources increases economic disparities.

As industrialists, we should all put our efforts into the eradication of poverty as a national and social responsibility. Every individual in society should play their due role in poverty alleviation.

Lest we forget that the United Nations 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) call for a universal commitment to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure a prosperous and peaceful future for all. These goals require the active involvement of all stakeholders, including black industrialists.

One of the key goals, SDG 9, focuses on promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialisation, which aligns well with our capabilities and potential to contribute to inclusive and sustainable industrialisation in our country.

By adopting inclusive and sustainable industrialisation, black industrialists will significantly raise employment rates, boost gross domestic product, and create opportunities for sustainable economic growth. The inclusion of females being a national imperative. With more and more emerging black industrialists, the future looks bright. Let’s unite and build a united South Africa for all its citizens.

*Dr Mokgokong, is Chairperson of Community Investment Holdings, Chancellor of North West University. She was honoured with the Legacy Black Industrialist Award at the 2024 Black Industrialists and Exporters Conference

**The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of Independent Media or IOL