President Cyril Ramaphosa last night addressed South Africans in this year’s State of the Nation Address (SONA). The address came at a critical time, just ahead of national elections which will take place on 8 May.

The president’s speech dived into the progress the country has made since 1994, the problems South Africa faces now and government’s plans for improvement going forward. Dr John Purchase, CEO of Agbiz said Agbiz strongly welcomed the president’s address, especially its general thrust towards revitalising the economy and strengthening education and skills development. In this, the president’s announcement of the introduction of several new technology subjects and specialisations including technical mathematics and technical sciences, maritime sciences, aviation studies, mining sciences and aquaponics, was very encouraging. Equally welcome was the president’s commitment to restructuring and optimising service delivery by state-owned institutions and, above all, to the rooting out of corruption and state capture.

Support for the sector

Ramaphosa highlighted government’s focus on sectors, policies and programmes vital to the economy, especially on those that require labour. These sectors include agriculture, tourism and the ocean economy. “The potential of agriculture in South Africa for job creation and economic growth remains largely underdeveloped,” the president said.  To this end government would prioritise targeted skills development and capacity building programmes for smallholder and emerging black farmers.

Agbiz welcomes the fact that the president singled out the agricultural sector for special development support citing it as a labour-intensive industry and making mention of large areas of unused agricultural land, especially in the communal areas, that can be brought into production.

Agricultural exports, attracting investment and earning foreign revenue are vital to food security said the president. “In the coming year, we will continue to focus on high value agricultural products with export potential such as our fruit, wine and vegetable industries, as well as poultry and red meat,” he said. The resilient and diversified sector should be developed to embrace inclusivity for all participants.

Land reform and EWC

On land reform, the president commended the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) and the submissions made on expropriation without compensation (EWC). The CRC is to unambiguously set out the provisions for EWC. An advisory panel headed by Dr Vuyo Mahlathi, established to advise government on the land reform programme, is expected to table its report by the end of March. The deputy president leads the inter-ministerial task team to fast-track land reform, while the Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform was commended for its excellent work.

Sound priorities

“The president has correctly prioritised the economy as the focus area and the building of a social compact through Nedlac dialogue and engagement as key to reigniting economic growth. To this end, the outcomes of the recent Jobs Summit and Investment Summit to address policy uncertainty, policy inconsistency and removal of barriers to investment, are critical. Agbiz is ideally positioned through its participation in these engagements,” said Purchase. –  Ntswaki Motaung, AgriOrbit

Click here to read President Cyril Ramaphosa’s full SONA speech.

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