A time of rapid and unpredictable change

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted daily lives and the way of doing business in unprecedented ways. In South Africa, the pandemic has exacerbated poverty, unemployment, and inequality.

 

The world closed 2020 on an optimistic note with the announcement of the first effective COVID-19 vaccine by Pfizer BioNTech. The South African government looked well poised to rapidly implement a mass vaccine program benefiting from both the COVAX initiative, a pooled procurement and distribution initiative aimed at securing large volumes of vaccines for countries that might struggle to secure vaccines, and its own bilateral agreements. Sentiment was positive with strong expectations from business and the investment industry for an economic recovery in 2021. But as time passed it became worryingly clear that the South African government were faced with unexpected challenges in the procurement of vaccines. At the time of writing, the country is at the tail end of the third wave with less than 10% of its population having been fully inoculated. With scientists warning of an imminent fourth wave, South Africa is likely to continue to bear the pain of the pandemic.

 

In addition to the global pandemic, South Africa has had to deal with reputational-damaging violent protests in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng which were characterised by unsettling and horrific scenes of chaotic looting, destruction of business and infrastructure and loss of lives and livelihoods. These events have further dented the country’s economic recovery prospects.

A good crisis should not go to waste

Let us use these experiences as an opportunity to mend the fault lines and take advantage of the lessons we have learnt in these difficult times. Economic policies should focus on achieving good socio-economic outcomes for all our people. Our transformation policies must remove the structural barriers that inhibit the participation by all in the economy. The financial sector has repeatedly been called out by the B-BBEE Commission for its slow pace of transformation relative to other economic sectors. When we think of an economic recovery we must shape and influence the type of recovery we want and for whose benefit. These are the questions which TAF seeks to address through catalysing our collective voice with a greater sense of purpose, urgency and action.

 

If you can’t measure it, you can’t change it

Credible data informed studies such as the annual BEE.conomics survey provides stakeholders with valuable insight on the state of transformation in asset management in South Africa. The research has for more than a decade created awareness around the bottlenecks which limit equal participation whilst also providing a platform to showcase independent Black-owned participants in the sector. More importantly, the research provides empirical evidence which both asset owners and policy makers use to inform decision making. TAF recognises that the investment industry requires an urgent rethink in terms of how we approach transformation initiatives. Our objectives are clear:

  1. To accelerate meaningful transformation across the investment industry value chain.
  2. To measure meaningful outcomes in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion in the industry.

Since TAF’s establishment in 2020, through a number of initiatives and ongoing dialogue with industry participants we have accelerated our efforts to mobilise the collective voice of asset owners in a collaborative and cohesive manner to build a sector that promotes equal opportunity for all.

 

The time is now

The precarious state that South Africa finds itself in requires us to respond urgently to bring about the necessary reform. TAF is determined and committed to contribute to finding the solutions which can move us forward. Let us work together to unite, rebuild and grow a South Africa where EVERYONE has an equal chance at thriving.

 

Joe Letswalo
Chairperson of TAF

 

Originally published the the BEE.conomics 2021 annual transformation in South African asset management survey.