One week ahead of South Africa’s Investment Conference 2022, hopes are high that it will live up to one of the main taglines on its official website: public and private collaboration for infrastructure-led recovery. This is exactly what leaders in agriculture plead for as a means to rescue our distressed economy.
The country’s fourth investment conference will take place on Thursday, 24 March in Johannesburg and will be addressed by President Cyril Ramaphosa and investors from across the globe.
Agriculture is also among the top sectors to be explored during a panel discussion themed “How to ensure sustainable growth in agriculture; how to tap into the new market”.
Channel investment towards infrastructure
Agri SA executive director Christo van der Rheede tells Food For Mzansi that their expectations are based on the promises around investment in infrastructure development which the president had made during his State of the Nation Address.
“It is critical for us that the necessary funding is channelled towards Transnet – to fix the harbours to make sure they function properly; to also make sure that the railway system is operational.
“It is also important for us that the road issue is addressed throughout the country. It is no use to talk about agriculture as the shining example of localisation, but farmers cannot get their produce from the farms to the market because the roads are in a poor state.”
Van der Rheede deems water infrastructure another critical issue. This, as there is a great need for dams, canals and rivers across the country to be fixed, ultimately enabling farmers to continue producing food for the country.
“Another important aspect is the issue of the policy environment that underpins the hopes for investment… or the attraction. If there is uncertainty about the policy direction, like the expropriation of land, this makes it difficult for farmers to do what is best, which is to farm.”
‘Put young farmers and rural communities first’
Meanwhile, the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (Afasa) youth chairperson in Gauteng, Katlego Kgopotse, says that they are hoping for more investment towards the development and training of young and upcoming farmers in commodity industries.
“We expect more investment in infrastructure, skills development and agro-processing facilities for young farmers in the country.
“In order for us as young black farmers to fully participate in the economic mainstream and increasing the prices on products, we need to add value through agro-processing. We need processing and packaging facilities,” he points out.
Saamtrek Saamwerk Northern Cape coordinator Sehularo Sehularo says that the empowerment of women and rural communities need to be in the spotlight too.
“It will be great if… investors look at agriculture as a key source of creating jobs, alleviating poverty and, importantly, empowering rural and women [farmers] in the sector.
“We would like to hear about investment going towards rural abattoirs and women-led markets for different crops and fresh produce. I think in that way, we will really see investment into farming taking a different shape.”
Market access, Sehularo adds, can only be realised once unnecessary red tape is eliminated by the state, and much focus is directed towards empowering small-scale farmers.
Huge need for conducive regulatory environment
Meanwhile, Agribiz executive officer Theo Boshoff highlights a need for a conducive regulatory environment for public-private partnerships.
“Had the regulatory environment been in place for public-private partnerships and private sector investment into bulk infrastructure supporting the sector for, for example irrigation schemes, then this could perhaps have been an opportunity. But, sadly, the regulatory environment for such investments are not in place yet.”
The investment conference is scheduled for 09:00 on Thursday, 24 March 2022 and can be viewed online. Click here for more information.
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