South Africa, like most of the continent south of the Sahara, is punching below its weight in the agribusiness game.
Africa is a net importer of food, even though it holds about 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable land. As the continent’s most advanced economy, South Africa fares better than its continental peers, consistently achieving trade surpluses in the agriculture segment thanks to exports of over $10bn a year.
But considering the vast tracts of land that remain idle or only partially used, and opportunities to boost its competitiveness and lift exports, the country has not come close to fulfilling its potential.
The government recognises this, and sees the sector as both a high-priority sector and an important tool in its job-creation arsenal.
The National Development Plan says the industry could create about 1-million new jobs by 2030 through investing in irrigation, converting unutilised land, and providing support to smallholder farmers to help them grow their businesses. It’s an ambitious target, and one that South Africa is falling behind on — especially if one considers that the number of people employed in the primary agriculture market has remained relatively flat at slightly over 800,000 for years.