Empty stomachs make bad politics

More government investment in agriculture will attract money from the
private sector and help ensure food security.

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The issue of African governments not investing more in agriculture was brought up again at a recent National African Farmers’ Union press conference. It seems surprising that governments in Africa, a continent with some of the most agriculturally suitable climates and soils in the world, are still so under-invested in their agricultural sectors. This, despite the Maputo Declaration, a commitment made in 2003 by African governments to increase public investment in agriculture to a minimum of 10% of the national budgets.

Taking up arms
Instead, governments favour the military, with some African countries investing more than 20% in their defence budgets.
I’m not saying state security should be compromised, but I don’t see other countries invading SA in the near future. Perhaps, if things continue this way, South Africa might soon have to worry about its own hungry citizens taking up arms against the government. The issue of food security on the continent should be taken seriously. It’s depressing to think that 80% of African countries import most of their food from abroad.

Future production
It’s often said that Africa has the potential to produce its own food. Investors look in this direction for future food production to satisfy the growing world population, estimated to reach 8 billion by 2025. While investment in agriculture remains minimal, so will production. It was recently revealed that South Africa’s corporate sector is losing confidence in the country. Reportedly, the private sector is sitting on more than R470 billion, which it is reluctant to invest here. 

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The way to unlock this money and restore confidence is for the government to invest money. And more than that, it must come up with policies which encourage investment. We need to sort out the land reform process as soon as possible to attract investment back into agriculture.

Farms are left without improvement or investment because people are afraid of losing money. Farmers head north because they are promised better farming conditions. Besides, all this talk of transferring land into black hands is meaningless chatter without some hard financial back-up to make the land and the process work.