Agricultural companies in South Africa
If you work in agriculture, including the exciting areas within agri-tech, there is no doubt that South Africa could provide you with opportunities to accelerate your international business growth.
I have just returned from a scoping visit to South Africa, with my colleague Lalit Gaur, our US based animal health specialist, and was struck by the many positive things that the country has to offer to the right agriculture companies.
Although a sophisticated market, agriculture is a significant part of the economy. South Africa is a major producer of food stuffs and the value chain is extensive. South Africa produces large volumes of beef, chicken, pork and lamb. For UK companies, South Africa offers an ease of doing business as a result of a common language; the same time zone; and excellent transport and IT infrastructure - thanks in part to the nation hosting the football World Cup in 2010. Most importantly for those of us in this sector though is the significant policy initiatives and financial support provided to the sector by the Government. Of course the wonderful cheap food and wine, and the convenient flight times are also pretty appealing!
Our colleagues in the High Commission and Consulates in South Africa had put together a very comprehensive programme for Lalit and I, visiting Capetown, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Stellenbosch and Bloemfontein, focused in particular on animal health. As a scientist, I was struck by the excellence of the research that we saw (indeed many collaborations currently exist with leading UK research institutions) but also by the lack of ability to exploit this innovation fully due to manufacturing challenges.
For example, we saw vaccine development projects to prevent significant endemic diseases of cattle but unfortunately there was no suitable pilot or production facility locally. Imagine what difference a company could make in a country like this? Although the vaccines may be specific to indigenous disease, their level of deployment can represent life or death to the local farmers. The sad fact is that the large manufacturers are absent, as they see the market as being too small by their global standards. So imagine what a great business opportunity this could be for the right company. Could that company be you?
The thirst for knowledge, collaboration and doing business with the UK across areas such as animal health, big data and precision agriculture is huge. We met distributors, farmers, equipment manufacturers and politicians and gained a keen awareness of the diversity of South African agriculture from the huge farms in Stellenbosch to the very different needs of the small local subsistence farmers who are keen to use any technology that might help but are often illiterate – there is a huge market for pictorial smartphone apps, for example.
South Africa can be a gateway for Southern Africa (including Angola, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe) thus enhancing the opportunities for growth, but at the same time the challenges of different markets, diversity, skills and resources.