The South African High Commissioner to Uganda, Her Excellency Lulama Xingwana, recently addressed youth about the opportunities in agriculture during a one on one session organized by the MTN Youth Skilling Program under the theme: Business Relations for Sustainable Partnerships. Below are the excerpts.
Uganda is among the leading producers of coffee in the world, hence my surprise to discover that there is no Ugandan coffee in South Africa. I would like to believe that currently, coffee is Uganda’s best kept secret. I don’t know if you are able to sell or export it, but I think there is an opportunity for you to do more. For instance, we do not produce coffee in South Africa but we love drinking it. Therefore, there is a ripe market for coffee farmers in Uganda to take advantage of in South Africa. However, to do that, Ugandan coffee farmers must evolve beyond subsistence farming and into commercial agriculture with the ability to undertake agro-processing. Young famers must look at opportunities in agro-processing, which will help them grow their markets from local or regional to International. Selling fresh fruit and vegetables has its limitations, but selling processed fruits and vegetables is more profitable as fruit juice or tomato paste which lasts longer and can reach a bigger export market hence making your products more profitable through value addition.
I am cognizant of the challenges of limited capital that hinder farmers’ ability to scale their operations to large scale farms and the heavy capital requirement for agro-processing.
Start Small dream Big
However, it is important to remember that Rome was not built in a day. We all start small, but we must have the vision and ambition to start from small but to grow big and ultimately move to commercial agriculture and the export industry. This will greatly contribute to Uganda’s economy.
More importantly, the need to grow your business underpins the significance of building business relations for sustainable partnerships. I am aware that MTN is interested in supporting agriculture and especially agro-processing businesses. It is up to you therefore, to take up this opportunity as young farmers.
Business Relations for Sustainable Partnerships
Strong partnerships with banks, such as Stanbic, Absa and multinationals are important and can help grow your business. Donors can also assist in this regard. It is for those reasons that keeping good reports and audited financial statements is vital and will help you develop trust and confidence of your donors or partners (e.g Danida, Sida etc). Partnerships are not designed for companies only, you can also harness a relationship with individuals. The introduction of agreements such as the Africa Continental Free Trade Area has opened a 1.4 Billion market (i.e. the African population) for African Farmers. Currently, African countries predominantly export to Asia, Europe and other continents, yet trading between Africans is still at 15%. Intra-Africa trade is still very low, which presents an opportunity for harnessing sustainable partnerships among African farmers. It is up to our youth to seize this opportunity. I know that Ugandans love goats, nyama ye mbuzi. We too have lots of goats in South Africa, so Ugandans can buy goats from South Africa and we can buy your pineapples, pawpaws or coffee. This is how we can start these partnerships. Farmers in Uganda can partner with farmers in South Africa such that we import and export between our countries, thus increase Intra – Africa trade and grow the economies of our countries and the continent. Through these same partnerships, young Ugandan farmers can benchmark from South African farmers who are already working in agro-processing and have experience and equipment or machinery needed for such projects.
There is also a direct correlation between commercial agriculture and other sectors. Commercial agriculture can be the springboard for other sectors for example tourism and ICT to prosperity. Through agritourism, a concept defined as a tourism programme that covers agricultural and farming areas where tourists can see local products and often participate in farm activities, Uganda can increase the number of tourists visiting the country. A common phenomenon in South Africa, providing additional income to farmers and contributing to our economy, agritourism particularly in wine production has proved profitable to local farmers in the country and the tourism sector. In Cape Town, we have turned the grape and wine farms into great tourist destinations. People want to see where this bottle of wine from South Africa was produced. They go to Stellenbosch or Franchoek for wine tasting, they buy wine and stay there and experience lifestyle in the wine farms. Wine farms and wine tasting have contributed a great deal to tourism and to our economy. Why can’t we have coffee tasting and farm holidays in the coffee farms of Uganda? This way more people will buy and import Ugandan coffee. Therefore, I appeal to you my dear youth who have been trained in nourishing your entrepreneurial spirit to move from subsistence to commercial Agriculture.
Growth of the agriculture and tourism sectors can also directly spill into the ICT sector. There has been a proliferation of innovations in the technology space created with the aim of bridging gaps such as lack of market for agricultural produce and need for critical knowledge in agriculture. There are also vast opportunities for ICT in the tourism sector such as travel apps, links to accommodation in the country, marketing the agricultural farms and the local experience to the outside world.
It is even better now that the AU has adopted the Forth Industrial Revolution led by our President His Excellency, Cyril Ramaphosa. MTN and Multichoice are major players in this sector, and will support such projects. I also know that, as young people, you love this sector. I therefore appeal to all our youth to look into this area and develop projects that will empower young people and, create jobs in the country.