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South Africa faces a lot of challenges hampering economic growth. A huge focus should be placed on the strengthening of partnerships between industry role players and Government. This was the general sentiment at the annual AgriSA Congress which took place during October.

Challenges galore

Water rights, expropriation of land without compensation and the Agriculture and Agro-processing Master Plan (AAMP) were some of the issues addressed by Jaco Minnaar, AgriSA President. “We have a lot of challenges. More people need employment versus paying above inflation increases for current workers. Expropriation of land without compensation does not give certainty to property rights and will influence investment in agriculture. We will request the Bill to be send back to Parliament.

“We also need more certainty and efficiency in processes when it comes to water rights. Implementation of the Masterplan now is crucial. We have the framework, the issues hampering implementation need urgent attention.

“It is time to act, when people lead, the leaders will follow.”

Strengthening of partnerships

Policy issues, rural roads and infrastructure were under discussion when Minister of Agriculture, Thoko Didiza, delivered the Presidential address.

“The President acknowledge the role and impact of agriculture in SA, the pandemic reaffirmed that role,” she said. “We need to start implementing the Masterplan to grow our local economy, as well as exports. Domestically speaking we acknowledge the challenges re biosecurity, the poor situation with local roads, rail, and other infrastructure. The ports also remain a challenge, but we are giving attention to this issue to address the problems and we have plans to re-vitalise the rail networks.

“Energy security is a top priority. We have a turnaround plan in process which should have an effect soon. The new Eskom board should address issues effectively and decisive measures are being taken to make private investment in energy possible. Other issues that are being addressed is farm murders, as well as national rural safety. We have certain strategies in place.

“We need to advance the needs of all South Africans. I applaud the sector for everything and call for an inclusive sector. Let’s continue to work together.”

SA is a global Agri powerhouse

Although the country faces many challenges, Wrenelle Stander, CEO of Wesgro and keynote speaker at the event, focussed on the positives that may just move the country ahead.

“Recent positive ratings by two rating agencies and the energy reforms recently announced are huge positives for the country. The question now is how do we grow our local economy? Resilient rural livelihoods are extremely important, we also need investment in adaptation initiatives to climate change. An energy transition is not negotiable. The world will not wait for us, we need alliances. Let’s invest local to grow global.”

Eskom woes

Millions of people use Eskom products but does not pay for it and the country currently has a four to six gigawatt shortage of electricity. According to Jan Oberholzer, Eskom COO, renewable energy is not a short-term solution. “We need a hybrid solution which include batteries,” he says. “In the next 9 to 10 years, 9 stations will be retired. The challenge we are facing with currently is we are forced to think parallel about the future while handling this massive crisis. I am however excited that the challenges we now face will be converted into opportunities over the next 10 to 20 years.”

Jan explained Eskom currently needs to invest R1 trillion in the next 10 years. A total of 8 500 km transmission lines need to be built. Loadshedding is here to stay for the next year to 18 months. A bold step may be to have continued stage 2 load shedding for a period of 8-12 months so that maintenance can be done properly. He committed to investigate the possibility to “play” with the power switch to assist agriculture where possible and to move closer to the industry.

A different mindset

Things in South Africa can be fixed, but a different mindset is needed says Dr Imtiaz Sooliman from Gift of the Givers. He suggested building communities through growing local.

“We cannot criticise or judge entire groupings or systems or nations or a country if problems is caused by individuals. The country does not belong to the Government, it belongs to the people of the country. We need to take ownership of our country and put pressure on Government to stop corruption. There is a lot of good people and goodwill in this country. If everyone just makes a 1% difference for good, we will fix this country.”

 

 

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