Fredo remembers very well the times in the early 1990’s, when South Africans were engaging each other to discuss the future policies and structures we would have once we became a new democracy. We remember the numbers of consultants, many from overseas Universities, who did their best to tell us what our agricultural policies should be.
In those days some academics from Suffolk University argued strongly that South Africa’s total agricultural policy should be based solely on promoting small scale life stock farmers. ‘Forget commercial agriculture,’ they argued, ‘you do not need them.’
[divider]Forget about the fact that commercial agriculture has been the backbone of the expanding South African rural economy? The proof has been in the pudding – since 1994 the South African fruit export industries have become deregulated and have expanded by four to five times since those days.
To our north Namibia’s grape business is expanding and the only reason why Zimbabwe is lagging behind is because Bob Mugabe is stopping it from recovering. It has in the past, after-all, been described as the breadbasket of Africa – and produces excellent citrus fruit and avocados.
That is why Fredo noted with interest the views of University of York political researcher Peg Murray-Evans in a recent blog post, as reported on fruitnet.com. These views were expressed following a trade visit to South Africa and Namibia ‘last week’ by the minister for trade policy, Lord Price. The writer said it was the first trip to Africa by a minister from the Department for International Trade since the department was created.
[divider]Under the headline introduction that Brexit could harm trade between the UK and Africa, the writer says there are fears on the continent that certain African countries could lose out to larger markets when the UK leaves the bloc.
It argued that several African nations, including South Africa and Kenya, send significant quantities of fresh produce to the UK. There are now concerns that tariffs could rise and exporters in certain countries could lose the preferential access to the UK market that they currently enjoy through Britain’s membership of the EU.
Murray-Evans is said to specialise in international development in Africa, and called for the UK to preserve current levels of market access for the five members of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) – Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland – plus Mozambique.
We Africans would certainly hope that the UK’s departure from Europe will not harm any previous agreements, although we recognise the fact that there will be quite a bit of negotiation to go through to ensure that this do not happen. We agree that when the UK exits the EU it will cease to be party to this agreement. That is where our agreement with the writer ends.
It is interesting that when these commentators engage in writing on these subjects, they normally use the words COULD and MIGHT fairly liberally. Fredo believes that by doing that, they do the whole debate a disservice, and only cover their tracks. They are indeed merely arm chair critics who wax liberally on subjects they should stay out of. The fact that the Minister had been to Africa indeed show that discussions are already taking place and that this will lead to new agreements.
We all know that the UK is in for a tough time, and that Brexit will have consequences far outside the borders of the UK. People who discuss the matter from their comfortable lounges, very often very far away from Africa, should perhaps rather look closer to home at the impact on the UK’s agriculture. South Africans have become used to the men in Brussels being ruthless negotiators and this time the UK is on ‘the other side of the fence’ and will also experience that.
[divider]Fredo would bet that once the dust is settled, the relationship between the UK and the Southern African nations will perhaps not be much different than it is now. We have been trading partners for hundreds of years and we believe these bonds will endure.
Above all, the people who offer their opinion as ‘specialists in Africa’ should note the world’s markets are opening up for Southern Africa’s fruit far outside the UK and Europe. The East is seen as the ‘new future’ for the people of Africa.
There is after-all life outside Europe and the UK.