Founding of agricultural development agency, AGDA,
“a new landmark in SA history”
The launch of the Agricultural Development Agency (AGDA) at Africa Agri Tech in Pretoria on Tuesday February 18 has been heralded as a landmark in the history of South Africa by bringing together the various role players in the agricultural environment to be part of a powerful initiative led by passionate people.
AGDA is part of the Public Private Growth Initiative (PPGI), which was established in April 2018 under the leadership of Dr Johan van Zyl, CEO and President of Toyota in Europe. Van Zyl was inspired by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s famous Thuma Mina call in January 2018 and based the PPGI on the hugely successful Japanese economic model. The aim is to align strategic planning between government and the private sector, in the interest of improving economic growth and the manner in which government and business work together.
There are over 20 sectors identified by the PPGI for specific focus. These include Agriculture; Tourism; Automotive; Chemicals; Manufacturing; Energy and Renewable Energy; Construction; Pharmaceutical; Mining; Retail; ICT; Health; and Insurance. These sectors are all developing comprehensive five-year growth plans, which aim at accelerating economic growth and job creation.
The specific aims of AGDA are to promote greater social justice by creating enablers that will help drive sustainable land reform programmes and contribute to changing land ownership patterns in our country. AGDA, which is an entirely private sector initiative falling under the PPGI framework, will work together on an agreed project basis with government to achieve the common national goal of sustainable and accelerated land reform to the benefit of South Africa and all its people.
In this regard, Mr Roelf Meyer of In Transformation Initiative, one of the main drivers of this project, drew attention to the main objectives of the Agency, which are to promote and support access to agricultural land by black/emerging farmers, and to support the use of agricultural land and infrastructure development so as to promote land reform and food security in the country. Meyer highlighted that AGDA has the specific purpose not only to pursue these noble objectives, but also to ensure the provision of appropriate training, as well as support and assistance to emerging farmers to improve capacity and access to agricultural markets in particular.
“It is only through the pursuit of such objectives in partnership with government, focusing on a more vigorous pursuit of the noble objectives the national land reform programme, that the market failures and imperfections in building an inclusive, dynamic and competitive agricultural sector, to enable all our people who have ambitions to work in agriculture can be overcome,” Meyer said.
Ms Gloria Serobe, CEO of WipCapital and also one of the leading inspirations and contributors to the creation of AGDA remarked that, “the Agricultural Development Agency must have a well-developed social conscience and it must be institutionalised in a manner that will ensure it is always dedicated to such imperatives.”
The new organisation will be a private business initiative that will work closely with government in all aspects of agriculture from skills transfer to the practical aspects of implementing land reform.
This is the opinion of Nick Serfontein, a prominent livestock farmer who wrote an open letter to President Ramaphosa in December 2017 asking him to involve commercial farmers in the land reform process. He was subsequently appointed to the President’s 10-person land reform advisory panel and is an enthusiastic founder member of AGDA after actively and successfully supporting new farmers for the past five years.
This positive attitude was a good example of the atmosphere that prevailed at this launch event which was led by Leona Archery, the newly-appointed CEO of AGDA who is also the head of the agriculture division at the Bigen Group and a former deputy Director-General of Rural Development and Land Reform.
Kallie Schoeman, the managing director of a 100-year-old faming business, was another prominent farmer who sees the efficient use of agriculture as an excellent vehicle for reconciliation in South Africa as it is a practical way of improving the lives of millions by providing wider access to affordable food.
Malcolm Ferguson, an associate in the In Transformation Initiative, said the way forward for AGDA will be to continue with pilot projects, source funding from the private sector, set up a board of directors, establish operational committees and build on the initial list of 36 founding members. The target is for AGDA to be operational by September 2020.