The Importance of Transforming The ‘Right Way’ In SA’s Agri Sector
Wandile Sihlobo, Chief Economist at Agbiz, has shed light on the future of South African agriculture in a recent interview on the "What's Treading" podcast sponsored by Michelin. Sihlobo, who has closely observed the complexities within the country’s agricultural sector over the past several decades, emphases that while transformation is essential, the focus must be on growth and not redistribution.
The agri sector is marked by its two faces: large-scale commercial farmers and struggling small-scale black farmers. With the latter producing between 10% to 15% of the country's commercial output, Sihlobo advocates for a comprehensive growth approach rather than a mere shift of resources.
"Expanding the agricultural pie for everyone is where the focus should be. Instead of redistributing, we should be looking at how we can tap into underutilised areas and truly realise the potential of our fertile lands," said Sihlobo.
He also stressed the importance of local governance in facilitating this growth. Many of South Africa’s farming communities are affected by smaller municipalities' inefficiencies. Bridging the gap between policy and its implementation is pivotal for the sector's success.
However, Sihlobo remains optimistic about the sector.
“I am very hopeful for the future of South Africa’s agricultural sector. It is one that will be transformed by renewables, technology innovations, and inclusive policies. It is also a sector that can create a million jobs by 2031. It is also a sector that can grow in value by anything from 30% to 50% to harness the untapped potential that lies hidden in the country’s fertile soil.”
He also cited the African Continental Free Trade Agreement as an example of where opportunities can be had.
“Our agriculture is export-oriented with markets in the East and West, as well as within the BRICS community offering significant demand. If these dreams are to be realised, we must collaborate. Heads must come together, not in conflict but in unity. We need to map a clear path forward. Yes, it is a challenge, but the immense promise that uplifting our farming communities means we must persevere,” he said.
Listeners can tune into the "What's Treading" podcast where Sihlobo takes a closer look into the challenges and opportunities of the South African agricultural sector.