The Empowerment Endowment

Since 2002, R51,6bn in value has been created specifically for charitable recipients through BEE deals, including community trusts, existing charities and newly established foundations. There is R32.6bn held by foundations set up as a result of BEE deals that will support charitable activities on a perpetual basis, while R19.06bn has been generated in contributions to public benefit beneficiaries, outside of the new foundations, some of which are existing endowments.

These are the main findings from a study conducted by financial research house Intellidex into trusts and foundations established from SA’s black economic empowerment transactions. The figures are based on an analysis of a sample of 35 companies’ deals, which includes all those of the 100 largest JSE-listed companies which had a charitable component to their BEE deals.

The full research findings can be found in the Empowerment Endowment by Intellidex, funded by FirstRand. Intellidex is solely responsible for the research and content of the report. FirstRand’s funding was not contingent on any of the findings contained in this report. The full report can be accessed here.

Key findings include:

  • Of the 100 largest companies on the JSE, 35 conducted empowerment deals that included public-benefit organisations as beneficiaries. These were mostly made up of trusts whose beneficiaries include the most in need in South African society.
  • In total, these deals resulted in value of R51.6bn of value for beneficiaries, made up of a mix of endowed assets and cash flows to beneficiaries.
  • Of those deals, 27 involved the creation of new trusts which have been endowed with assets to support foundations.
  • Collectively, the new foundations have endowments totalling R32.6bn. We estimate that these endowments should generate funding for philanthropic activities of about 10% per year, resulting in spending of over R3bn per year.
  • Most of the new foundations are structured with independent boards of trustees. However, the sponsoring companies usually retain some control over the investment strategies for the endowments, usually ensuring that the endowments remain invested in the sponsoring companies’ shares.
  • The new foundations support a wide variety of objectives, but education stands out as a priority area. We estimate that 67% of the financial resources the foundations command is focused on education-related funding objectives. This is followed by community development (10.6%) and entrepreneurship (8.4%).
  • It is clear that the assets and spending power of the new foundations will make a major impact on the overall philanthropic sector in South Africa. There is little comprehensive research on philanthropic endowments currently in South Africa. One sample of prominent foundations found a total of R12.6bn held in endowments (Gastrow & Bloch 2016). A study of corporate social investment in South Africa estimated annual total spend of R8.1bn (Trialogue, 2015).
  • Most of the new foundations are less than two years old and are still gearing up to launch full activities. The findings therefore indicate a change that is currently in the making and will have an impact in the years to come.

Sizwe Nxasana, chairman of the FirstRand Empowerment Foundation, has called for greater co-operation between sponsoring companies, trusts and foundations to maximise the impact of these initiatives. “Collectively the impact that these could make is far greater than any of us acting alone. This fact calls for innovation and coordination to really maximise the difference this legacy can make in the country.

“We should aim to develop, share best practice and collaborate where possible. Knowing more about each other and working together can only help,” he says in the introduction to the Empowerment Endowment report. “This research helps us to understand the lay of the land. By having a clearer picture of what other companies are doing, we can better shape our own activities to ensure a better overall outcome.”

Intellidex chairperson Stuart Theobald, who headed up the research project, says that the R32.6bn in endowments, of which most are destined to exist in perpetuity, can make a long-running difference to the lives of millions of South Africans.

“The key challenges facing these new entities are a shortage of skills and lack of infrastructure. Many are struggling to find the required staff to run operations. Foundations also have to think through the right operational model, that will balance efficiency with the need to be independent of their sponsoring companies. The use of sponsoring company infrastructure lowers costs, but can come at the loss of real independence in grant making activities.

“Foundations also have to find ways to manage the concentration risks inherent in their portfolios. All have major exposures to the shares of their sponsoring companies. This is an outcome of the current BEE regulatory environment which requires companies to maintain BEE-qualifying investment levels. But it leaves foundations with inefficient investment portfolios. Some have begun diversifying by using a proportion of cash flows to diversify their portfolios. But more creative solutions are surely feasible, such as total returns swaps, a form of derivative.

“There is clear potential for foundations to cooperate, both in dovetailing their programmes to maximise impact, and in sharing best practice, infrastructure and potentially in pooling financial risks and jointly supporting projects.

“The new foundations also bring a corporate culture, particularly in driving innovation, into the philanthropic sector that could have spin offs for the rest of the sector too. This could result in new innovations such as social impact bonds, philanthropy markets, activist investing, and so on.”


The Empowerment Endowment report is based on a year-long research exercise into the charitable and community components of the 100 largest JSE companies’ empowerment deals implemented since 2002, when community schemes started to be included in BEE deals. It follows an earlier research report by Intellidex, The Value of BEE Deals, which considered the top 100 companies’ deals overall. The sources for this research included the published documents of the companies, but also extensive interviews and other engagements with various company executives to obtain information. Additionally, Intellidex interviewed several other individuals involved in philanthropy who provided background information and context.