The sub-Saharan Africa region holds potential for expansion for South African agribusinesses, but the approach to doing business will have to adapt to country-specific practices at the start, says Wandile Sihlobo.
South African agribusinesses aiming to expand their operations into the rest of the continent in the coming years will face different environments compared to realities in South Africa. This includes the commonly cited factor of poor infrastructure, and also a much less talked about problem, which is low levels of agricultural productivity.
With respect to the latter, a recent study by agricultural economists Thomas Jayne and Pedro Sanchez argued that sub-Saharan Africa's agricultural output growth in the recent past has been through area expansion rather than improvement in productivity or yield per hectare. A case in point is maize, which shows a striking difference in yield levels between South Africa and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa.