By Phumza Macanda
When Chief Emmanuel Lediga started Legae Securities in 1996 with his partner Rams Tau he was going into unchartered territory with a dream that his company would one day be successful.
After a decade of "riding out the tough times and continuing on its growth path", the first black-owned stock broking firm marked its 10 years last week with Lediga "very happy" with its progress.
Lediga started his career as a financial journalist for The Star newspaper after completing a BCom degree with Witwatersrand University in 1991.
He then joined the stock broking firm SMK, now Nedcor Securities, becoming the first black dealer at the JSE. He later moved to research, where he was the assistant to the chief economist covering the economy and politics.
Few black people use stock brokers and when Lediga started Legae Securities he wanted to create a platform for black investors to fully participate in the financial markets. But he acknowledges that financial markets are largely unused by black people as an investment tool.
"The use of savings and investment tools really depends on how much money people have."
"They start with stokvels and savings accounts, move to insurance and then into retirement funds," he explains.
"The more money people have, the more sophisticated their investment tools; [ultimately] moving to unit trusts, share portfolios, stocks and bonds."
His firm has both black and white individual clients and has grown to include corporate clients. It was instrumental in helping the fixed-line operator Telkom to list on the stock exchange.
Lediga started the company with loans from banks at a time when accessing finance for black people was a major challenge, long before funding for small business made it into the state's agenda.
He insists, however, that while access to finance is still a challenge, knowing and accessing business opportunities is a bigger obstacle for entrepreneurs.
"It does not help to access the money if prospects for your business are not good because you don't know where the opportunities are," he says.
While the government is working to improve the small business environment and empower entrepreneurs, its programmes are just not making the desired difference, he says.