If the keynote speeches at the inaugural African Agri Investment Indaba on Tuesday are anything to go by, this fledgling of a conference can be expected to blossom into the farming sector’s version of the super successful annual Mining Indaba.
For anyone not convinced by the opening speeches given by a variety of experts and dignitaries, there is the fact that there was U.S.$2.7 billion in potential investment on the table before the event started.
In his keynote speech, South Africa’s Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Senzeni Zokwana, recounted an anecdote about a Canadian farmer, who is reported to have said something along the lines of: You will need a doctor when you are sick. You will need a lawyer when you have legal problems. But three times every day you will need a farmer!
Zokwana said he was excited about the number of financiers involved in the indaba, and called on farmers to help design a variety of investment packages for different investors.
One farmer who is likely very well placed to help on this score was another keynote speaker, introduced by Wesgro chief executive Tim Harris as a man with “dirt under his fingernails”, which is not how many in the audience usually think of South Africa’s former Minister of Finance Nhlanhla Nene.
Nene, now resident advisor at Thebe Investment Corporation and a non-executive board member at Allan Gray, was quick to reject any suggestion that he was a great authority on farming but did say of his own small farming operation.
“My eyes light up when I speak of agriculture because of the little dream I have,” he said.
Also going back to basics was Loyiso Mkwana, a deputy director general in Gauteng’s Department of Agriculture, who was delivering an address on behalf of that province’s agriculture minister. Mkwana reminded the gathered delegates that “No Hunger” was number one of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.
The Agri Indaba, being held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, is bringing together more than 600 key stakeholders to discuss trends that will influence food and agribusiness economics over the next decade in Africa.
In his keynote, Alan Winde Western Cape Minister of Economic Opportunities Alan Winde said he hope the Agri Indaba would become the place where the world came together to look at the role that Africa played in food security for the world.
He added that he hoped it would be the start of “something that we are going to see as of huge benefit to us as a region, as a country and as a continent”.
There will be no slacking, Winde said. “We are going to give it full gas.”
Government representatives and bankers, investors and financiers, commercial farmers and a cross-section of representatives from the agro-processing industry are gathering at the Agri Indaba to tackle issues such as how does Africa fulfil its potential to become the breadbasket of the world.
The event is being organised by the African Agri Council in partnership with Wesgro (the Western Cape Investment and Trade Promotion Agency) and the province’s Department of Agriculture.
Zokwana said it was completely unacceptable that people in Africa were still living in abject poverty and called on all the various stakeholders to “support our vision of making this continent the breadbasket of the world”.
He said government on its own would not be able to achieve food security.
“Government can’t do it without you,” he said addressing the delegates.
“With you we are almost guaranteed to succeed.”
– African News Agency