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Monday, 30 November -0001 02:00

GUIDE: Black ownership on SA’s stock exchange – what we know Featured

Written by Kate Wilkinson - Africa Check
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Black participation in the Johannesburg Stock Exchange continues to be the topic of heated debate in South Africa. This guide explains the different estimates and the methodologies used to arrive at them.

When the president’s estimates of the share of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) owned by black people jumped from 3% to 10%, a South African commentator took notice.


“Something rings wrong,” Allan Greenblo, editorial director of retirement publication Today’s Trustee, wrote in BIZNEWS.

In response to the debate on his 2015 State of the Nation Address, President Jacob Zuma claimed that “the black majority still owns only 3% of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, pointing to the need to move faster to achieve meaningful economic emancipation. We have called for radical economic transformation”.


Two years later, in his 2017 State of the Nation address, Zuma said that “only 10% of the top 100 companies on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange are owned by black South Africans”.

Zuma attributed both figures to the National Empowerment Fund (NEF), a government mandated fund tasked with facilitating economic equality and transformation in South Africa.

“There must have been a giant leap during a short period, or the NEF’s methodology has changed,” said Greenblo.

It turns out neither scenario is true.

This article was orginally published on Africa Check.


Back-and-forth on black-owned numbers

Estimates of black-ownership of the JSE have been controversial and debate about them has eaten up significant inches in both newspapers and online publications.

Let’s start at the beginning. In 2015, the presidency, NEF and the JSE had a kerfuffle over how much of the JSE was black-owned. (Note: In the South African context, “black” includes African, coloured or Indian people as defined by the broad-based black economic empowerment act.)

After Zuma had pegged the number at 3%, the JSE released a contradictory statement, saying “black South Africans hold at least 23% of the top 100 companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange”.


Zuma’s then spokesman, Mac Maharaj, defended the 3% figure. He said it was calculated by the NEF which relied on research conducted by Who Owns Whom, an “independent research organisation producing original research on the African business and economic environment”.

Jaws dropped when the JSE then released another statement saying they agreed with Zuma’s figure: “Insofar as the direct investment that black South Africans hold in listed entities on the JSE, we roughly concur that the holding is 3%. When direct and indirect holdings are included as a value of the top 100 listed entities on the JSE, the figure is 23%.

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