Food for Africa!

Africa is the third fastest growing region in the world after Southeast Asia and the Pacific Rim. Since 2000 some 90 million Africans have moved to cities, and the continent now has as many cities as Europe.

Africa is “entering a take-off phase” says leading economist and Du Roi Group director Dr Iraj Abedian, who was the keynote speaker at a recent conference hosted by the Du Roi Group.

Dr Abedian says growth and urbanisation will benefit agriculture. There’s also the ever-increasing global demand for food from China, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

South Africa has a head start with its sophisticated economy and well-developed agricultural sector. We can make a huge contribution to Africa with food, expertise and input support. Everybody – including politicians – must work towards meeting the increasing food requirements of our continent and the world.

I’m not suggesting that South Africa becomes Africa’s sole supplier, but as its biggest agricultural sector we have a responsibility to support agriculture’s development elsewhere on the continent.I’m no economist, but I’ve often said that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region has potential to become a great agricultural producer.

All 14 SADC countries have their own potential which, if developed sensibly, will provide food for themselves, the greater African continent and elsewhere.

The trade potential among SADC partners is big and I believe the movement of fresh produce across borders will become the norm in the near future. As the economics of agricultural production influence farming practices, so we’ll see regions specialising in certain crops and supplying their neighbours.

South Africa might be the dominant grower of citrus or deciduous fruit, but as production costs rise it’ll become cheaper for our neighbours to compete with other fruit types, like bananas from Mozambique. They’ll also compete with different vegetables according to their climate, due to lower production costs.

My crystal ball says South Africa will be the main producer of citrus, deciduous fruit, avocados and some selected fruit crops, as well as potatoes, onions and tomatoes.

Other fruit and vegetables will still be found locally, but the main producers will be our neighbours – which means a vibrant cross-border trade between the region’s countries. If my crystal ball is right, exciting times are ahead.