Three of Southern Africa’s agribusiness hotspots identified

Agribusiness in Sustainable Natural African Plant Products (ASNAPP), an NGO with offices in a number of countries across the continent, recently identified three areas in Southern Africa that hold good potential for the cultivation of fresh produce or food processing.

A tomato trader in the town of Mkushi, close to Zambia’s Copperbelt Province.

1. Tete (Mozambique) – catering for an influx of people

The remote town of Tete, situated in the centre-west part of Mozambique, is the heart of the country’s new coal mining industry. The area around the town has some of the world’s richest coal reserves.

Rajat Kohli, Standard Bank’s global head of mining and metals, called it the world’s last substantial untapped coal reserve. “About 100 million tons per annum of coal could be produced within the next five years, and that figure could even go further,” he said at a conference last year.

Resources giants Rio Tinto and Vale have already made significant investments in the area, and this has led to the development of a thriving mining support industry in Tete. The promise of major investments in infrastructure to facilitate mining activities is expected to turn Tete into one of the fastest growing ‘cities’ on earth as people flock to the town for work and business opportunities.

However, this non-agrarian work force and population will have to be fed somehow. This provides an excellent opportunity to cultivate and supply fresh produce in Tete.

2. Windhoek (Namibia) – a food processing and transport hub

ASNAPP says that the horticulture industry in Namibia is relatively small, and the bulk of fresh fruit and vegetables are imported from South Africa.

Namibia has a food-hungry neighbour in the form of crude oil producing Angola to the north, and links to the growing agriculture economy of landlocked Zambia through the Trans-Caprivi corridor. Both Angola and Zambia have conditions far more suited to fresh produce cultivation because of abundant water and land, and a more favourable climate. However, Namibia is strategically positioned to be an agricultural processing and trade/transport hub with its deep sea port of Walvis Bay, which is linked to four major corridors: the Trans-Kalahari, Trans-Cunene, Trans-Oranje, and Trans-Caprivi corridors.

Windhoek is the capital city of this arid Southern African country, and is the cross roads for the above mentioned corridors, which effectively link Namibia with trading centres in Angola, Botswana, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Windhoek is also the largest market for high-value horticulture fresh produce in the whole of Namibia.

3. Copperbelt (Zambia) – diversification from mining

The Copperbelt is the central-north province of landlocked Zambia, bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The area’s economy has historically depended on the mining industry.

Wealth generated from mining has made this province the most urbanised in Zambia with the second and third largest cities, but reliance on mining has rendered the area financially vulnerable to fluctuations in commodity prices.

The Copperbelt’s mild climate, abundant water and land resources, and established infrastructure make agricultural development a potential diversification hedging strategy that could improve livelihoods and economic development in the region. The Copperbelt is also strategically located to the DRC’s second largest city of Lubumbashi, which provides an additional market for agricultural produce.