Today has been interesting — away from excel spreadsheet at the office in Pretoria. I am in the great City of Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape, attending Agbiz 2018 Congress.

We had a number of great speakers, including Marcos Fava Neves of Sao Paolo University, Mpumelelo Mkhabela of the University of South Africa, Goolam Ballim of Standard Bank and Neal Gutterson of DowDuPont. Neves and Gutterson covered global developments on agriscience and innovation, while Mkhabela and Ballim focused on the domestic political economy.

Here are some of the points that I extracted from Mkhabela’s presentation on South Africa’s national competitiveness – in other words, key things that the country needs to do in order for its agriculture and agribusiness to be competitive:

  • Greater cooperation between government and agribusiness
  • Cooperation among partners domestically paves way for cooperation at external level – e.g. trade/investment agreements
  • Business must accept imperative to transformation as part of a national competitive strategy, not only because the law says so
  • The government must appreciate the importance of the business sector by using corporate taxes responsibly, not loot & stop casting doubt on the bona fides of South African business people because they are white
  • Private companies, farmers and State Owned Companies with unused land must give to black people who need it for productive purposes – and give them title on the land
  • On the point of land reform — move black people from the status of subjects (under traditional chiefs) to full citizenship where they can prosper
  • Our companies must be measured against the best in the world
  • Education, R&D – measure ourselves against the top in the world
  • Appreciate the national interest better. AfriForum who say bad things about the country abroad is undermining the government’s investment drive. Workers who campaign for banning of our SA agriculture exports when they are on strike undermine market share of local products.

My apologies if I summarized Mkhabela without full context, but this is a gist of what he said. For further engagement, he is on Twitter @MMkhabel

Follow me on Twitter (@WandileSihlobo). E-mail:

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