The head of Absa’s agribusiness division, Andrew Makenete (pictured), said skills development is one of the best ways to fast-track empowerment, but for the agricultural sector to attract skills and investment, it must address its negative image.
Speaking at the Animal Feed Manufacturers’ Association’s (Afma) annual conference at Sun City in the North West, Makenete said the withdrawal of investment in agriculture over the past 15 to 20 years has also witnessed a decline in skills. “When people see government investing in agriculture and agricultural schools then the industry’s perception will improve and be seen as important,” he said. He added that black students will not enter the sector if its negative image is not corrected. “The responsibility of skills development has shifted back into the lap of businesses,” Makenete said, adding that if businesses want to move forward with AgriBEE, companies must invest in skills development. “It is actually good business practice. breeds a culture of loyalty, you will have more productive people and it adds value to the bottom line of your business.”
He said findings from a recent survey conducted by KPMG found companies in the agricultural sector have made the least progress on transformation. “There is a perception by government and communities that the sector continues to be racist and un-transformable,” he said. Results show only 40% of agribusinesses surveyed had initiated a BEE compliance strategy, compared to an average of 80% in other sectors. Furthermore, no agribusinesses set compliance targets for their suppliers and procurement departments, compared to 30% of other companies. Afma chairperson, Dr Hinner Köster, said the number of black students studying agriculture at university is still unbalanced. Business must endeavour to encourage more young people to study agriculture by increasing its appeal.