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Dr Sifiso Ntombela, chief economist of the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) was recently also appointed as Deputy-President of the Agricultural Economics Association of SA.

What are agriculture’s biggest challenges a) locally b) in Africa c) the rest of the world? Locally, the main challenge is to expand the growth and competitiveness of the agricultural sector in a manner that is inclusive and sustainable. Regionally, the challenge is strengthened trade facilitation capacity to promote intra-African trade capitalising on the recently signed African Continental Free Trade Agreement. At a global level, subsidies and the uses of SPS and TBT to distort global agricultural markets remain a big challenge. This is witnessed in the South African markets, in particular for poultry and sugar where the rise of imports from subsidised countries are distorting the local market.

How should the sector respond to this a) locally b) in Africa c) globally? Locally, the private-public-academic partnerships are ideally to generate evidence-based policy advisory and achieve competitive growth in the sector. Such partnerships could upscale access to means of production, modern research and development, and innovation. Through these partnerships, access to blended and soft loans critical for farmers’ sustainability will be expanded, thus achieving inclusive growth and decent jobs in the sector. At the continent, upscaling infrastructure development to reduce logistical costs and relieve border-post delays could elevate intra-African trade and expansion of agricultural production. This will also attract new investment in agriculture throughout the African continent. At the world level, support to the World Trade Organization to reinforce compliance to global trade rules is key. With the advent of the Covid-19, the majority of countries have instituted a variety of non-tariff measures to protect their domestic countries and there is a need to reinforce the principles of trade openness to ensure efficient and effective global agricultural markets.

What do you consider to be the key success factors that should result from the AAMP process? A stronger public-private-academia partnership to leverage common resources, experience, and skills in the implementation of the AAMP. A clear model to integrate previously disadvantaged individuals in the formal agricultural value chains coupled with building a capable state to provide public services are the key expected outcomes from the Master Plan

Would you encourage young people to pursue a career in agriculture? Definitely. Especially in the field of digitalization of agricultural systems.

Did being an industry bursary holder, help you in your career? It provided support and opened opportunities for me.

  • Dr Sifiso Ntombela has 10 years of work experience spanning within the public and private sectors. Among key achievements is the establishment of a credible information system in the South African fruit industry and helping them join the Southern Hemisphere Association of Fresh Fruit Exporters (SHAFFE). Ntombela headed the development of a Master Plan to increase investments and capacity in agro-processing and the rural economic sector in South Africa under the Presidential Infrastructure Coordination Commission. He also managed the country’s biggest infrastructure program in transport, energy, and manufacturing sectors implemented by the State-Owned Companies between 2015 and 2017, when he was a director for strategic projects in the Department of Public Enterprises.
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