Dr Patrice Motsepe, founder and executive chairman of African Rainbow Minerals, with AFASA president Dr Vuyo Mahlati and chairperson Neo Masithela.

Billionaire businessman Dr Patrice Motsepe says there are high-level discussions with, amongst others, the Motsepe Foundation and banks to launch a multi-billion rand fund focused on agriculture, farming and related industries. The fund will unlock opportunities for specifically black agriculturists and give them preferential access to loans.

“The farming industry is at a very critical stage,” says Motsepe, the founder and executive chairman of African Rainbow Minerals. “The involvement and participation of black people is important. There is a huge sense of urgency to make sure we have sustainable black farmers in the industry.”

In order to help achieve this, Motsepe unveiled his involvement in a soon-to-be-launched fund where banks, agri-businesses and other industry role-players are joining forces to give black farmers access to finance and opportunities.

Motsepe delivered the keynote address at the third AFASA Agri-business Transformation Conference at Imvelo Safari, Bloemfontein. About 200 delegates gathered at Imvelo Safari on the first of three days of the conference with the theme “Farmers Growing South Africa: Creating Jobs and Trade Opportunities”.

Ismail Motala from Wyvern Farming featured with Elton Jefthas from De Fynne Nursery and Dr Job Mthombeni from Kromkrans and Impangele farms.

Motsepe says meetings have already taken place with stakeholders to set up the fund and he also welcomed the involvement of AFASA. “You cannot build an economy, you cannot build a future for all our people if there’s an insignificant participation in ownership, access and involvement from black farmers.”

He furthermore says, “We have to work with everybody, as we have to work for a future for all. We can only have a future as black farmers, if there is a future for all farmers.”

The award-winning businessman reminded AFASA delegates that South Africa needs to ensure that black farmers, including the youth, women and entrepreneurs, have proper access to finance. “We have to unlock the biggest barrier, which is access to funding. We want to see successful black farmers and people part of the whole value chain. We can’t meet in 10 years again and say: Where is the community of black farmers?”

Witvaal Agricultural Hub representatives attending the AFASA Agri-business Transformation Conference are Amelia McDonald (left), Dr Eric Khoza (second from the left) and Koos du Plessis (far right) with KwaZulu-Natal vegetable farmer Nomalanga Pascal.

According to Motsepe it isn’t enough to blame government and make excuses. Partnerships between government and private sector stakeholder are however key.

Delegates applauded as Motsepe also announced that his foundation will give 20 students recommended by AFASA the opportunities to study, like it has done to many others before. He complimented Mahlati for the work the organisation is doing and encouraged black farmers to follow those who are successful in the sector.

Mahlati says AFASA is working to ensure that all farmers with potential are supported. “We are profiling successful farmers to highlight and encourage each other, particularly black farmers. When they are supported sufficiently, you can succeed. It is not about race, but whether you are supported sufficiently.”

Xolile Dasheka, a game farmer and owner of Imvelo Safari where the conference is currently underway, shared his journey in agriculture. He emphasised hard work to achieve your goals, saying he had to prove his neighbours and critics wrong, even those from government. “The naysayers now come to me and ask me for advice.”

He also called on black farmers to not only rely on state support to achieve success, but to be entrepreneurial in their approach instead. “Let us not rely on government. Don’t just say government is not doing this and not doing that.”

Dasheka thanked AFASA for their continuous support.