Agribusiness, also known as the food and fibre industry, is the chain of industries directly and indirectly involved in the production, transformation and provision of food, fibre, chemicals and pharmaceutical substrates. The primary roles in this chain include:
Not only does the sector provide the basic products to feed and clothe the population, it contributes about 15% of the South African gross domestic product and provides employment for about 1,2 million workers and a livelihood for about six million people. The importance of this sector can therefore not be overstated.
- Primary production of commodities such as food grains
- Processing of commodities e.g. milling
- Inputs supply to the primary and tertiary sectors
- Retail and wholesale
- Service provision such as education, banking and technical advice
South Africa's economy is increasingly challenged to perform more competitively in a globalising world economy. Agricultural policy and practice in South Africa has changed radically over the past decade. The Marketing of Agricultural Products Act (1996) and the new world trade arrangements spelled radical changes in the industry. This combined with a global focus on consumer satisfaction and seeking efficiency in supply chains. This has contributed to a dramatic redefinition of competitiveness. These changes require that South African farm producers and agribusinesses position themselves as business-driven competitors in a fiercely-contested global market.
Furthermore, the linking and empowering of previously disadvantaged groups and developing agriculture, with South Africa's position as a leader in southern Africa, have major impacts on the agribusiness environment. These changes allow for opportunities and adjustments, in particular through linkages between the South African, southern African region and international agribusiness institutions.
It is a well-known fact that there is a shortage of qualified agribusiness executives and managers to handle these dynamics and the need by the industry for a new package of leadership, technical, economic, financial, and economic skills. The ABSA Chair in Agribusiness Management endeavours to capture these notions in its academic programmes.
The ABSA Chair in Agribusiness Management was introduced in 1999 to become part of the portfolio of courses presented by the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development at the University of Pretoria. Its establishment was in response to the need for expertise in strategic management, in consumer focus and supply chain issues in order to maintain and grow global competitiveness It was also motivated by the growing popularity of agribusiness as a career. ABSA also had the foresight to become involved in the Chair as a sponsor as their involvement and exposure to this important sector warranted further engagement.
The ABSA Chair in Agribusiness Management aims to supplement the capability of agribusiness to face the challenges of the sector in flux, through innovative training programmes, research and outreach.
Agribusiness Management is offered by the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of Pretoria as one of three areas of specialisation in Agricultural Economics. This option offers broad training in business with specialised training in the unique problems of managing agribusiness firms. The agribusiness courses provide a foundation for those students interested in other fields and then proceeds to teach more advanced skills in agribusiness management students specialising in the option.
Graduates from the Chair are equipped to add value and continuously meet demands of employers in a changing environment. The programme features rigorous and relevant (academic and applied) focus teaching methods to assist in the development of new management competencies and leadership skills. The courses enjoy international accreditation and acknowledgement because of their adherence to international benchmarks and collaboration with major universities.
Through research the Chair not only follows international norms but also sets the knowledge pace through topical research projects. Examples of research projects that the Chair is currently involved in include:
- Changing food systems and analysis of the role of supermarkets: analysis of market concentration and its effect on the emerging sectors
- Challenges for agribusinesses within the context of NEPAD and the African Union
- Banks (financial institutions): their current and future role in the agro-food industry
- AgriBEE: involvement in this sectoral empowerment policy
- Strategic and business planning, feasibility and risk analysis
- Role of co-operatives and agribusiness in southern Africa.
Research efforts completed in the last year include an analysis of consumer behaviour; market potential studies; market accessibility, the role of agribusiness in developing agriculture and investment opportunities in SADC. Leadership programmes and short courses in agribusiness are also offered, focusing on the core issues prevailing in the southern African context.