Sona paves the way for economic recovery through greater collaboration

Photo: File

Photo: File

Published Feb 16, 2022


By Christo Van der Rheede

IN HIS State of the Nation Address last week, President Ramaphosa made a number of important commitments for the agricultural sector which, if effectively implemented, will aid South Africa’s economic recovery.

What is essential now is for government to present concrete plans and extend the opportunity for business to collaborate on these projects in order to fast-track their execution. The success or failure of government in this regard will be a decisive factor in determining whether South Africa’s agricultural sector lives up to its potential or stalls as the nation’s infrastructure and vital services continue their decline.

The president was correct to recognise that government’s capacity to create jobs is limited and that this function rightly sits with the private sector. In fact, the agricultural sector already employs more than 800 000 people. The job of government is to create a conducive policy environment with working infrastructure and effective service delivery. Only then will the agricultural sector be able to accelerate the expansion of these employment numbers, creating a wealth of opportunity for a generation of workers in the rural communities that most need them.

We know that, in its current state, the public sector cannot deliver on the president’s promises alone. This is why the state needs to leverage private sector skills and capital to revitalise among others, electricity, water, road, port and rail logistics delivery mechanisms. Herein lies the solution to many of these challenges.

In this same collaborative spirit, government must be willing to hear the voices of the sector as we propose solutions to some of the greatest problems facing the industry and the country. This is especially true for the issue of land reform.

In this regard, the president highlighted the importance of actively pursuing land reform in terms of the Constitution and with the help of an Agriculture and Land Reform Development Agency. Of highest priority in any land reform proposal should be the formulation of land reform measures that benefit the farmers and farming communities that work tirelessly to secure South Africa’s food security.

The detail of how the proposed land reform agency will operate must be finalised as soon as possible. Instead of reliance on the ill-conceived Expropriation Bill to advance land reform, Parliament must prioritise legislation that will clearly articulate the new agency’s mandate, and how it can be configured to promote collaboration between commercial and developing farmers at district level to bring about sustainable land reform, greater food security, and job creation in rural communities.

This mandate will have to be based on sound economic principles that attract rather than deter financial investment, and that provides the support that both established and emerging farmers desperately need. This is how we can begin to create an enabling environment for the agricultural sector’s growth.

With the commitment already shown by the sector and the possible impact of the president’s announced initiatives, the potential for the agricultural sector to help turn the country’s trajectory around is virtually limitless. Food security and the creation of economic opportunities work hand in hand in our sector, therefore the sector’s success is the nation’s success.

But we can only realise this potential by working together. This is why Agri SA is committed to working with President Ramaphosa and his administration to ensure the success of the Economic Recovery and Reconstruction Plan, and that we build an inclusive, resilient and sustainable sector that secures the nation’s food security for generations to come.

Christo Van der Rheede is the Executive Director at Agri SA.

*The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL or of title sites.


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