BrownSense now makes perfect business sense

A black businessman shakes the hand of a white colleague after concluding a business deal. / Supplied
A black businessman shakes the hand of a white colleague after concluding a business deal. / Supplied

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.

These wise words were uttered by the first black president of the United States in a speech to supporters in 2008 during his presidential campaign.

Nine years later and more than 13000 kilometres away, a group of black SA consumers, professionals and entrepreneurs are putting his advice into action.

A private Facebook group called BrownSense has started an economic revolution, encouraging black people to support each other when sourcing services of any kind.

The move, although strictly business, is reminiscent of the black consciousness era, both in America and South Africa in the 1960s and '70s.

The group, which has over 100000 members and growing, seems to have hit the right spot with black people across the continent. BrownSense forum is like a giant black business market where you have access to virtually all conceivable services, from lawyers to greengrocers.

The group has a strict screening process to keep out undesirables.

Founder and chief executive, Mzuzukile Soni is unapologetic about the initiative's racial exclusivity as he sees it as the only way to help black entrepreneurs help each other grow and thrive instead of waiting for government or big business to come to their rescue.

In his welcoming message to new members, Soni says: "BrownSense context (black people), is creating their our own ecosystem, removing every layer that still keeps us in shackles, learning to love ourselves and each other."

He explains that this could be done through the vehicle of business and through promoting, rating and supporting black owned businesses.

"The intention is to also break the stereotype that black service providers provide below par service. We break this stereotype by demanding excellence of ourselves and of others.

"Where we don't get it, we call it out and provide guidance, and how it should be provided."

Soni says the initiative is not about business as usual, "because business, in our case, is just a vehicle to get to the promised land."

I was introduced to BrownSense last week by a friend, Bontle Mokaleng, a dynamic marketer who co-founded the Itumeleng Khune Legacy project, which helps develop young footballers from disadvantaged communities and also helps children live active and healthy lifestyles.

I was holding my visual art exhibition at Zoo Lake, Johannesburg, and to prove her point, Mokaleng posted pictures of my artwork to the group and gave our location.

Within 40 minutes four people from the group came to view my art, telling me that they saw our post in BrownSense.

It was American civil rights leader Malcolm X who said that as black people we should be "conscious of our responsibility to harness the natural and human resources of our people for their total advancement in all spheres of human endeavor."

Self-reliance does not mean that blacks should not trade with other races, but that they should prioritise "buying black".

It simply means that black community empowerment and self-help becomes a priority to all Africans.

'Radical economic transformation' has become a trending political catch phrase with little or no meaning.

Radical is what the BrownSense has started, and it makes perfect sense.