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Indigenisation/black economic empowerment and the appropriation of the spirit of capitalism in post-colonial Africa: a critical study on the emergence of African business ethics.

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In this study I have argued that BEE/indigenization policies in post-colonial Africa have been implemented with the aim that capitalism could be appropriated by indigenous Africans. Since capitalism arrived in Africa through colonialism, the post-colonial socio-economic policy of indigenization was deemed a solution for correcting the economic imbalances that were created by colonialism. Some scholars and politicians argued that the capitalist values that were mediated to Africa were contrary to the Weberian values of the Protestant ethic such as frugality, thrift and hard work which became integral to modern capitalism in the Western world. For this reason, it was argued that colonialism did not facilitate the appropriation of modern capitalism. African traditional communitarian values were also deemed to be contrary to modern capitalistic values that were mainly based on atomic individualism. Contrary to modern capitalistic values of atomic individualism, African communitarians argued that African traditional society was communitarian, thus refuting the Hobessian contractarian theory of social existence and atomic individualism. Communalistic ontology of society as espoused in the African kinship system is based on the presumption that persons are persons because of their natural common belongingness with others in society. The African communalistic ontology of society is also espoused in the African ethic of Ubuntu. The ethic of Ubuntu is found to be incommensurable with individualistic capitalistic practices. However, there are some scholars who have argued implicitly that the ethic of Ubuntu should be infused in modern capitalistic practices so that there could be an appropriation of capitalism in post-colonial Africa. Some post-colonial African scholars have argued that the emphasis that was given to communal wellbeing in African traditional society were rather inhibitive towards the appropriation of modern capitalism. Scholars who argued for the indigenization of capitalism have argued that such a policy had nothing to do with the appropriation of capitalism, but a deliberate attempt at creating African capitalists who would end up replacing the previous colonial capitalistic class. It was also argued that since capitalism was mediated through colonialism, some African nationalists have argued that African traditional values were commensurate with socialism. Their aim was thus not about the appropriation of capitalism, but rather the appropriation of socialism. The argument of African socialism was contracted by those historians who have argued that the initial appropriation of capitalism in Africa was enabled by Christianity instead of African traditional values. Finally, it was argued in this study that the indigenization or BEE has been supported by many post-colonial African governments as an ethical imperative aimed at the redressing the economic inequalities of colonialism and apartheid. BEE/indigenization is thus a policy aimed at creating socio-economic policies that would enable black people to participate in their national economies. In this regard, the BEE/indigenization socio-economic policy is aimed at promoting the common good. However, the problem inherent in this socio-economic policy is two pronged. Firstly, the study argued that BEE/indigenization has not led to the economic growth as a sign for the appropriation of modern capitalism in post-colonial Africa. Secondly, BEE/indigenization policy has been marred by corruption and this has led some scholars to question whether it was necessary to create a small class of African capitalists at the expense of the majority of the citizens who suffered under colonialism and apartheid discriminatory rules. It is was argued in this study that the appropriation of capitalism should be done in a way that promotes the common good instead of individual greed.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.