South Africa’s post-pandemic economic recovery has been sluggish since plummeting in the second quarter of 2020 – when lockdown restrictions were at their most stringent. Supporting agriculture, some believe, is key to turning the tide for South Africa’s economy.
This is because it accelerates the development of the agro-food system and creates broad-based welfare gains for all people, agri-economic consultant Tlale Matseke said.
Matseke was speaking during a panel discussion at this year’s Brics Youth Summit. The summit, hosted by the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), is one of the events taking place in the build-up to next month’s 15th Brics summit.
Agriculture also featured during the three-day programme. In a session on strengthening post-pandemic socio-economic recovery and the attainment of the 2030 agenda on sustainable development, Matseke explained why agriculture could not be left out of the conversation.
“A key strategy for post-pandemic recovery is supporting growth led by agricultural productivity, because this accelerates the development of the agro-food system and creates broad-based welfare gains for all people,” Matseke said.
How to do it
Countries are embracing the role that sustainable agriculture can play in embedding resilience in their economies, Matseke remarked.
“Macroeconomic indicators show that, in 2020, the agricultural sectors outperformed the broader economy exactly because it was more resilient.
“Investments in sustainable agricultural productivity trigger positive externalities which uplift lower-income households, particularly those engaged in farming activities,” she said.
At lower income levels, agricultural sector growth and development are critical for poverty reduction, she added.
“We know that climate and environmental risk is the only category of risk which exacerbates all the other global risks, so a post-pandemic economic recovery that benefits all people is not possible unless it is underpinned by environmental sustainability and boosting climate resilience,” Matseke said.
Achieving resilient, sustainable growth will not be easy, she cautioned. This will require raising on-farm productivity, successfully implementing appropriate adaptation mechanisms for climate-vulnerable regions, and food systems becoming more internationally competitive.
Role of farmers and stakeholders
Explaining what role can governments, businesses, civil society, and individuals play in strengthening post-pandemic socio-economic recovery, Matseke highlighted degraded land restoration, improving soil fertility and agricultural productivity.
The recently launched Southern Africa Food Systems Transformation Alliance is also important, she said.
“A business-led collaboration to invest in the transformation of Southern African food systems centred on the ambition for 80% of total viable sourcing to be from within the SADC region by 2033.
“The Alliance sets the stage for food companies to work together to unlock local sourcing and invest in the communities of the future.”
Furthermore, to reduce air and water pollution caused by dust storms, and improving cardiovascular health outcomes which were worsened by pollution. Matseke said increasing domestic incomes and access to public services is also important for post-pandemic recovery.
The summit concludes today, Thursday, 20 July, with a key focus on unlocking opportunities through the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, strengthening the meaningful participation of young people through the BRICS Youth Council. Transforming education and skills development for the future are also high on the list.
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