The Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz) welcomed the recognition given to South Africa’s real gains in the area of land reform, responding to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s 2024 State of the Nation Address (Sona) last week.
Agbiz chairperson Francois Strydom said on Friday that as could be expected in an election year, the focus was largely on counting the successes of the sixth administration.
“While we would have liked to see bolder steps taken to stimulate our economy, the value of recognising the sector’s efforts towards land reform cannot be overstated. The agricultural sector is highly competitive and capital-intensive.
“In the absence of direct state support, inter-generational knowledge and investments are often required to buffer against shocks brought on by a volatile market and climate. This is a tough environment for new entrants, but despite these challenges, we have managed to achieve a real and lasting transformation,” Strydom said.
Agbiz added that the industry had played a significant role in this transformation by providing skills transfer and financial and technical support.
“Acknowledgement of the progress that we have made is a breath of fresh air, especially after an attempt in the recent past to amend the Constitution to allow for expropriation without compensation. A special mention must also be made of the role that Agbiz’s members, affiliates, and staff have played in the process, as vindicated by the president’s mention of our chief economist, Wandile Sihlobo. We are proud of these achievements, and it is heartening to see recognition given its due.”
Outside of land reform, Agbiz CEO Theo Boshoff noted that aside from encouraging remarks on land reform, the address provided little in the way of policy direction for the coming year.
“Instead, the address provided a status update on a number of processes that are underway. We can interpret this in one of two ways: on the one hand, the address was devoid of any new ideas or major announcements to stimulate economic growth.
On the other hand, one could argue that it was an affirmation that the State was not deviating from commitments made in the previous Sona, but rather allowing critical processes to reform South Africa’s electricity, logistics and water infrastructure to unfold.
“Business has invested a great deal of time, capital, and goodwill into these collaborative efforts,” Boshoff said.
“It seems as if these processes are being supported at a critical time when the temptation must be there to shelve longer-term pragmatic processes in favour of a populist approach. We hope that this trend will continue after the elections, as our economy sorely needs a dose of pragmatism,” Boshoff said.
Meanwhile, AgriSA, also represented South Africa's agricultural sector, acknowledged Ramaphosa’s Sona, which underscored the pivotal role agriculture played in the nation's economy.
It said as the backbone of South Africa's economic landscape, agriculture served as a catalyst for growth, job creation and food security.
AgriSA CEO Johann Kotzé acknowledge the progress highlighted in land reform initiatives, but stressed the need for concerted efforts to align with the objectives of the National Development Plan 2030 (NDP).
“Agriculture stands central to this plan, and comprehensive strategies are imperative to address the sector's challenges and capitalise on its opportunities,” Kotzé said.
Furthermore, AgriSA echoed the sentiments shared regarding the need for strong public-private partnerships to drive progress in key sectors such as energy, logistics, and infrastructure.
“We are pleased to see tangible progress resulting from collaborative efforts between the sector and government in addressing key issues such as logistics, energy and combating crime and corruption, as highlighted by the president.”
Addressing the performance issues in these sectors was crucial to unlocking the full potential of the agricultural industry, enabling it to contribute significantly to economic development.
The president said the sustainability and positive impact of the South African agricultural industry on society and the economy hinged on urgent and substantial structural reforms within these sectors.
“Establishing a stable, aligned, and consistent regulatory framework with efficient administration is critical to attracting and retaining investments. Together, through effective collaboration and commitment, we can ensure that agriculture continues to play a vital role in creating economic prosperity,” Kotzé said.