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( — When is a black person finally empowered? Have the past 16 years of black economic empowerment yielded anything positive towards the realisation of economic liberation for black people? Must there be a deadline by which to end the entire empowerment process?

“Those are wrong questions to ask,” says Cyril Ramaphosa, one of the individual “usual suspects” of empowerment. There’s been too much criticism of individuals, with too much focus on the ownership aspect of empowerment, while all the other more important aspects – such as enterprise development – have almost been completely neglected. “That’s the mistake we make – looking only at equity ownership,” says Ramaphosa. The first 16 years of South Africa’s black empowerment policy have brought with them mixed fortunes for the country’s previously disadvantaged black population. While empowerment has produced a thriving and growing middle class – with individual billionaires coming through the ranks of the black population who have gone on to represent not only the black population but the country as being among the richest individuals on earth – an estimated 10m South Africans were still living in abject poverty at year-end 2009, says the Business Trust.

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