President Cyril Ramaphosa at the 2019 election results announcement at the Tshwane events centre in Pretoria.
President Cyril Ramaphosa

Announcing the allocation of R3,9 billion to the Land Bank to support black farmers, President Cyril Ramaphosa once again emphasised agriculture as a foundation of our economy that offers growth potential for the economy and employment in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) of the 6th Parliament.

This echoes his words in his previous SONA in February of this year, when he said that the potential of agriculture in South Africa for job creation and economic growth still remains largely underdeveloped.

During yesterday’s speech he placed emphasis on agriculture as one of the productive sectors of the economy and as a foundation of the economy that needs to be rebuilt in order to make SA’s growth targets in terms of the National Development Plan (NDP).

Agriculture was mentioned as one of the sectors that will be singled out for development attention, along with mining and industries like automotive, textiles, gas, chemicals and plastics, renewables, and steel and metals fabrication.

“We are going to substantially expand the agriculture and agro-processing sector by supporting key value chains and products, developing new markets and reducing our reliance on agricultural imports.”

Towards the end of the speech, while setting out his vision for the country’s future, he also said: “We must be a country that can feed itself and that harnesses the latest advances in smart agriculture.”

Good news for agripreneurs?

In what could be seen as good news for small-scale agripreneurs and urban farmers, the president said:

“Through spatial interventions like special economic zones, reviving local industrial parks, business centres, digital hubs and township and village enterprises, we will bring economic development to local areas. We will also focus on small medium enterprises in our cities, townships and rural areas and create market places where they trade their products.”

In other moves that will be welcomed by agripreneurs, Ramaphosa also promised a concerted effort to reduce SA’s high cost of data and government support for the ‘Buy local’ campaign. This is an attempt to stimulate demand for the locally produced products of Mzansi’s entrepreneurs.

Land reform

Ramaphosa emphasised the strategic importance of land reform not only in rural or agricultural settings, but also in urban areas:

“Faster economic growth also requires accelerated land reform in rural and urban areas and a clear property rights regime.

“We have received the report of the Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture, which will now be presented to Cabinet for consideration.

“The panel’s recommendations will inform the finalisation of a comprehensive, far-reaching and transformative land reform programme.

“In the immediate term, government will accelerate efforts to identify and release public land that is suitable for smart, urban settlements and for farming.

“In the stimulus and recovery package announced last year, we promised to prioritise funding for emerging farmers.

“Over the medium term budget period, R3.9 billion has been allocated to the Land Bank to support black commercial farmers.

Increased cross-border trade

Ramaphosa said that the integration of our economy with those of our neighbours and the rest of our continent is an essential part of South Africa’s growth strategy.

“The African Continental Free Trade Area will improve the movement of goods and services, capital and means of production across the continent.

“Our revitalised industrial strategy focuses on the expansion of our trade and investment links with the rest of the Southern African region and the continent at large.

“Within SADC, we will prioritise development of cross-border value chains in key sectors such as energy, mining and mineral beneficiation, manufacturing, infrastructure and agro-processing.”

Youth employment

Agriculture is mentioned as one of the sectors where “jobs demand” is growing and that will see the development of programmes to ensure that economically excluded young people are work ready.

“These sectors include global business processing services, agricultural value chains, technical installation, repair and maintenance and new opportunities provided through the digital economy and the fourth industrial revolution.”

Ramaphosa recognised youth unemployment as a national crisis.

“The brutal reality is that when it comes to youth unemployment, we have to run just to remain in the same place.

“It is therefore essential that we proceed without delay to implement a comprehensive plan – driven and coordinated from the Presidency – to create no fewer than two million new jobs for young people within the next decade.”

“This plan will work across government departments and all three tiers of government, in partnership with the private sector.”

Seven priorities, five development goals

Ramaphosa committed his administration to focussing on seven priorities during the next 10 years, in an attempt to meet the NDP’s 2030 targets. The priorities are:

  • Economic transformation and job creation
  • Education, skills and health
  • Consolidating the social wage through reliable and quality basic services
  • Spatial integration, human settlements and local government
  • Social cohesion and safe communities
  • A capable, ethical and developmental state
  • A better Africa and World

“To ensure that our efforts are directed, I am suggesting that, within the priorities of this administration, we agree on five fundamental goals for the next decade.

  • No person in South Africa will go hungry.
  • Our economy will grow at a much faster rate than our population.
  • Two million more young people will be in employment.
  • Our schools will have better educational outcomes and every 10 year old will be able to read for meaning.
  • Violent crime will be halved.”

Climate change

Ramaphosa recognised the threat of the climate crisis.

“Guided by the NDP, it is our responsibility to pursue inclusive, sustainable development that is resilient in the face of climate change.

“Working in partnership with the private sector, labour and the international community we will step up our adaptation and mitigation efforts.

“We have the opportunity to be at the forefront of green growth, of low-carbon industrialisation, of pioneering new technologies and of taking quantum leaps towards the economy of the future.

“We must increase the contribution of renewable and clean energy to our national energy mix and explore the potential of the hydrogen economy.”