JM Nyokong - an entrepreneurial success from the 1800s

2017-01-27 19:15

Agency is defined in sociology and philosophy as the capacity of an entity to act in any given environment. In sociology, an agent is an individual engaging with the social structure. Black Agency, there for assumes the actor to be black and that they have a capacity to be change agents.

In history, we are either the central drivers or we are relegated to the margins as objects of destiny. An audit of history turns to cast a black actor or agent as a victim. This holds true since black people narrative can’t be told without episodes of oppression, slavery and discrimination for most part of the past 500 years. This sense of victimhood is the margin.

There are episodes though in our history, where black agency is self-evident and the black character is no victim. In fact they stand out as central role players that shaped the national economy and achieve success, even without notoriety. When those entrusted with responsibility, especially black leaders view themselves as central in their own history, the expectation is that they will view themselves as agents, actors, and participants rather than as marginal on the periphery of political or economic experience.

John Mokitlane Nyokong

Thaba-nchu in the Free State, in the twenty years from 1880 to 1900 had a peculiar variation on the theme to most South Africa. Political incorporation was here accompanied by the formal constitution of a black land-owning class. A list of these proprietors is long but one standout was John Mokitlane Nyokong. This Barolong proprietor developed agricultural operation in a manner and on a scale that was described as  capitalist, even at that era.

JM Nyokong, owned the farm Maseru farm. He would later expand into the agro-processing area of the economy by investing harvesting and post harvesting machinery. This was not without its challenges it should be noted, however when one assumes a central role in their history they would find ways to overcome immediate challenges. The British government at the time would make it difficult for him use the machines he had invested in by making it compulsory to only use the machines with white engineers. This did not stop him from teach his nephew to operate the machine and be productive. At the apex of his story, he was presented to the Land settlement Act commission in 1901 as case study for unfair business practices. Nyokong also complained bitterly before South African Native Affairs Commission in 1904 about how pass laws prevented him from travelling to Bloemfontein by train whereas his white employees could travel freely. However his success and contribution to SA was telling, especially his contribution to first congress.

Fast forward to today and the Agro-processing sector

The business of JM Nyokong has evolved in 2017 and it’s a long more involved than traditional aggregation. However the opportunities within the agro-processing space remain viable. Food security is more a factor today than it was in the late 1800. This has a lot to do with the population increase.

Another factor to consider is that the consumption of vegetable per person has been increasing as well. The importance of vegetables in a healthy diet is strongly promoted by all the stakeholders in the fresh produce marketing chain. The per capita consumption of vegetables was 44.57 kg during 2014/15, approximately 1.7% higher than the 43.84 kg of 2013/14. Agro-processing opportunities for new agents is driven by the following factors:

  • Favourable price environment: Major processed vegetable types, showed price increase of up to 25%.
  • Import replacement: South Africa is a net import trader of processed vegetables. The country imports 25 thousand tons of processed vegetable as opposed to 14 thousand tonnes of exports.  Leading countries for South African import of processed vegetables in 2014 were Belgium, China and New Zealand
  • Private label consumption: Euro-monitor reports that Private Label and new labels experience a 26% increase in consumption in 2015/2016. 1% of that increase is ten millions of rands.  This gives scope to the entry of new products.

Be Inspired SA!

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