22 March 2019

Africa: Employee Stock Ownership Plans - a Viable Option for South Africa?

analysis

The African National Congress's 2019 election manifesto released in January refers to the need to broaden ownership of the economy and 'a focus on extending worker ownership across the sectors of the economy' as an essential part of transforming the South African economy to serve all the people. We believe that including workers in the democratic ownership of companies via employee stock ownership plans may well be a viable option for South Africa to consider.

Social reform and empowerment strategies usually involve either getting the government to do more good things for people or empowering people to do more good things for themselves. Employee ownership of companies is part of the second strategy and employee stock ownership plans are a potential entry point for such employee ownership.

Employee stock ownership plans have proven successful in some 7,000 enterprises in the US over the past 40 years, covering 10% of the private workforce. This model can readily be adapted to other private property market economies such as South Africa.

However, the problem in South Africa is that Anglo American set up some sham employee stock ownership plans in the late 80s that were deservedly ridiculed. Those and a few similar plans...

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