Sat. Jul 13th, 2024


Business Roundtable on Food Security with Private Sector Representatives of the Southern African Development Community (SADC)
Jonathan Shrier
Acting Special Representative, Office of Global Food Security
Johannesburg, South Africa
December 4, 2013

The U.S. government currently partners with South Africa as a “strategic partner” in Feed the Future, the U.S. global hunger and food security initiative. As our whole-of-government initiative, Feed the Future works hand-in-hand with 19 partner countries to develop their agriculture sectors and break the vicious cycle of poverty and hunger. Our goal is to reduce the prevalence of poverty and stunted children by 20 percent in the specific areas where we work, which will help families lift themselves out of poverty, purchase nutritious food, and have access to education and health care.

An overarching objective of our strategic partnership with South Africa is for the United States to support a viable South-South, demand-driven approach to development cooperation. We collaborate with three non-traditional donors – Brazil, India, as well as South Africa – to build upon our deep historical ties, and to leverage the expertise, resources, and leadership of rising middle-income countries for the benefit of Feed the Future partner countries. We seek to share South Africa’s innovative business models and advanced technical expertise across the region. We seek to support SADC’s important goal of transferring South Africa’s agricultural success to other countries, thereby reducing hunger and poverty across the region.

To meet these goals, we seek to deepen our partnerships across the government, civil society, academia, and the private sector in South Africa and beyond. We must increase responsible agricultural investment and scale-up our collective development impact in Southern Africa.

South Africa already plays an indispensable role in the achievement of regional — and, in turn, global — food security. South Africa is the largest economy on the continent and the engine of economic growth in Southern Africa, with one of the top ten stock exchanges in the world and well-developed physical telecommunications and energy infrastructures. South African firms conducted about 70% of intra-regional investment flows, and South Africa accounted for 71.5% of the region’s GDP in 2009. South Africa is also the largest food exporter within the region. Investment from South Africa’s private sector to neighboring countries is the key to economic growth to the region.

South Africa has achieved some of the highest crop yields in the world because of its innovative, high-performing businesses in the agricultural sector, which have adopted first-generation biotechnologies and effective plant breeding capabilities. For example, the average maize yield in South Africa is about 3,000 kilograms per hectare. This high yield compares to a regional maize yield level of around 1,500 kilograms per hectare. South African firms also boast cutting edge technology in the use of advanced food processing and fortification.

South Africa has also demonstrated a strong commitment in recent years to the development of key trade corridors in the region. As President Zuma has repeatedly stated, South Africa is committed to championing the North-South Corridor and to mobilize resources for the implementation of projects. USAID supports corridor efforts by working with private sector groups, such as the NEPAD Business Foundation, to help small-holder farmers access markets. We also work with the Southern African Trade Hub to improve trade facilitation and cross border management, specifically by focusing on National Single Windows, Coordinated Border Management, and Customs Connectivity. The main objective is to decrease the time and cost of transporting agricultural commodities and inputs across borders. I am pleased to report that we are seeing some significant results, such as improvements in crossing times for exports and imports as high as 60% at Mwanza (between Malawi and Mozambique) and 40% for Songwe (between Malawi and Tanzania) in this past year alone.

Now is a critical time for us to deepen our partnership in food and nutrition security. Southern Africa, as a region, continues to be severely affected by chronic vulnerability and continuous food and nutrition insecurity. With nearly 45% of the population living below the poverty line of $1.25 per day, chronic food shortages exist at both the national and household level throughout the region. Although 70% of the region’s population depends on agriculture for food, income, and employment, the productivity of most rural smallholders remains very low.

To respond to these challenges, the U.S. government’s programs across Southern Africa are designed to advance food security by improving agricultural productivity and market access for agricultural products and inputs, as well as by reducing trade barriers along major transport corridors. In Southern Africa, Feed the Future partners with three countries — Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique. In Zambia, we support smallholder out-grower schemes, which help link more small-scale farmers to buyers and processors and other key private sector partners. Meanwhile, in Malawi, we work with the government to advance policy priorities that can improve agricultural inputs, agricultural trade, institutional architecture, and nutrition. Our programs in Mozambique focus on catalyzing international and local agribusinesses investments in agriculture, not only through Feed the Future, but also through the G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, which is a commitment by G8 members, African countries, and private sector partners to reduce poverty through inclusive agricultural growth.

Sharing agricultural technologies currently practiced in South Africa, and relying on South Africa’s world-class educational institutions to train agriculturalists from neighboring countries, can further improve the lives of millions of people across southern Africa. Our Strategic Partnership with South Africa represents an important opportunity to bring together the private sector, South African government, and Feed the Future programs to unlock the potential of Africa’s agricultural sector. For precisely this reason, the United States actively works with South African companies and academic institutions to disseminate key technologies and promote agricultural training.

The United States is committed to supporting South African private investment and sustainable, equitable growth in agriculture across the region. Strategic Partnership Grants have already helped to create new market linkages, connecting farmers in the region to rewarding markets elsewhere in Africa and globally. These grants have also helped to: increase food storage capacity; transfer cutting-edge technology (like drought tolerant seeds, sophisticated soil testing and analysis); and disseminate timely crop extension and market information via mobile technologies. But we can always do more, and we can always do better — together.

Together, we can increase market access, particularly for small-holder farmers. Together, we can support finance for improving infrastructure and trade, including the development of new financial products, services, and insurance products. Together, we can work from farms to markets to tables to improve incomes and nutrition. Not only is this the smart thing to do; it is also the right thing to do.

We can — and we will — make a significant difference in the lives of millions of people by reducing hunger and poverty in Southern Africa.
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