Original Research

Trust in business alliances between traditional companies and previously disadvantaged institutions: A barometer for black economic empowerment

Kgope Moalusi
South African Journal of Economic and Management Sciences | Vol 23, No 1 | a2873 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajems.v23i1.2873 | © 2020 Kgope Moalusi | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 07 November 2018 | Published: 21 April 2020

About the author(s)

Kgope Moalusi, Department of Industrial and Organisational Psychology, College of Economic and Management Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


Background: Despite the positive role of trust as a complex ‘glue’ that keeps the parties of an alliance together, it is unclear how trust dynamics may play out among black and white business partners and what such trust experiences may mean for black economic empowerment in South Africa.

Aim: The study reflects on the prospects for black economic empowerment by exploring trust experiences of managers involved in business alliances between traditional companies and previously disadvantaged institutions.

Setting: The study focused on managers involved in these alliances in the province of Gauteng in South Africa.

Methods: Twenty-five managers from mainstream companies (n = 7) and emerging companies (n = 18) were selected through purposive sampling. Q-sorting was applied to trust-related items, with follow-up interviews. Principal component factor analysis was used to analyse the Q-sorted data to reveal the managers’ clustered perceptions about trust in business alliances. Interview data were thematically analysed to place the findings from the factor structure analysis in context.

Findings: The managers shared six nuanced conceptions of trust. Generally, the prospects for black economic empowerment appear greater in the groups characterised by integrity, revealing the centrality of honesty in these alliances.

Conclusion: Exploring trust in black and white business alliances may help to disentangle the phenomenon of black economic empowerment in South Africa. In a way, managers’ perceptions of trust may be used as a barometer for the functioning of these alliances because trust affects managerial behaviour and, ultimately, whether or not such alliances enhance the prospects for black economic empowerment. The study also offers new ways of thinking about and new ways of advancing theory and practice regarding black economic empowerment.


trust; black economic empowerment; business alliances; traditional companies; previously disadvantaged institutions.


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