JOHANNESBURG – Land expropriation in South Africa is quickly becoming a reality as the majority of the country's people have realised that historical injustices need to be undone. As one with no political affiliation, I hope a fair, democratic and inclusive approach will be used.
The Natives Land Act of 1913, abolished in 1991, forced millions of black South Africans from productive farms.
I think some of our youth today might not comprehend the gravitas of that heinous land act. The recurring fact is that blacks still do not own land proportionately to whites.
On a much more positive note, President Cyril Ramaphosa has established a dedicated 10-strong team to address this, a move widely welcomed.
Yet to resolve the issue amicably, all races and creeds need to unify and collaborate, with the economic betterment of our country as the end-goal and our youth as the real winners.
Agriculture is a sector that could transform Africa's economy – by helping to reduce youth unemployment. In Ramaphosa’s newly proposed stimulus package, he emphasised that agriculture had massive potential for job creation, so more good news.
Recently, the African Green Revolution Forum, the continent's most influential gathering around Africa's largest economic sector, concluded its meetings in Kigali with ambitious commitments to deliver billions of dollars in new investments to African farms and agribusinesses, triple agriculture trade between African countries and forge new partnerships with development partners from China, India, Brazil and Israel.
The aspirations for a thriving agricultural economy on the continent are at a record high. South Africa cannot afford to be left behind in this process.
During a visit to Abidjan and Kigali last week, I met students and entrepreneurs who proved to me that many young people are keen to play a role in agricultural production.
In Rwanda, agriculture contributes some 32 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP) of the country. Yet agriculture currently contributes little to the GDP of South Africa.
More young people should be made aware of the potential of the agricultural sector. This can include developing new technologies (specifically from aspirant local start-ups) to modernise and advance the sector.
On-the-job mentorship and land leasing is an option. Instead of expropriation without compensation, why not merge young black farmers with existing white farmers in a 50/50 partnership with on-the-job mentoring?
White farmers can give 50 percent equity of their farm to the emerging black farmer, while the land is leased for 99 years with the black farmer taking full ownership after the term.
To ensure a fair process, it should be mandatory that all young black farmers are paired with knowledgeable and experienced white farmers to learn the trade and become permanent farmers on that land. This will stymie the large, often hostile businesses from getting their greedy hands on the land.
In today's economic environment, young black farmers cannot simply be expected to work the land. A transition process towards owning equity should be developed to be seamless, sustainable and mutually beneficial for all parties. Working the land and running it as a business are two different things, and young people should be guided through this process with education, mentorship and partnerships.
All-in-all, land reform is a challenging issue for any country to get right first time. It needs due process, due diligence, open-mindedness and an immense collaborative effort from all South Africans.
Kizito Okechukwu is the co-chairperson of the Global Entrepreneurship Network Africa; 22 on Sloane is Africa's largest start-up campus.
The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
– BUSINESS REPORT