Decaying infrastructure hampering SA’s agriculture, tourism
by TINTSWALO BALOYI
JOHANNESBURG, – AN expert has lamented crumbling basic infrastructure as limiting South Africa’s agriculture and tourism growth potential.
“The dire state of local road networks and deteriorating water infrastructure adds to the high crime levels,” said Wandile Sihlobo, economist at the Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz).
He said the interlinked problems of poverty, unemployment and weak economic activity continue to plague rural towns and communities.
“However, the two industries that could help ease some of these challenges — agriculture and tourism — face various constraints that limit their growth potential,” Sihlobo said.
In 2021, food and beverage group Clover moved its cheese production from Lichtenburg in the North West to a plant outside Durban in KwaZulu-Natal as a result of ongoing poor service delivery.
The company had provided more than 400 jobs in Lichtenburg and there were other positive economic spin-offs for the community.
Astral, the poultry-producing company, lost millions of rands because of the Lekwa Municipality in Mpumalanga failing to provide reliable supplies of water and electricity.
In the Eastern Cape, dairy-producing organizations and others are struggling to move their fresh milk to market because of the dire state of the roads, especially after recent heavy rains, Sihlobo noted.
“They also face the challenges of poor maintenance of water infrastructure,” he said.
Sihlobo revealed that in July 2022, an elderly woman from one of the villages in Dutywa, a small town in Eastern Cape, called him with 300 bags (at 40kg each) of good-quality yellow maize and needed a way to sell it to cover her household needs.
Sihlobo made several calls to potential buyers and found one in Mthatha, a town roughly 86km away.
“But the transaction never went through after the buyer realized the road to the woman’s village was horrible, and his truck wouldn’t get there easily,” Sihlobo said.
The economist said intense focus was needed in 2023 to get South Africa in better shape and ease the economic frustrations.
“Agriculture and tourism are the future, but they require supportive infrastructure, especially at the municipal level,” Sihlobo added.