Petroleum Agency was established in 1999 following a ministerial directive and is mandated through the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) of 2002, together with the National Environmental Management Act of 1998. These acts provide for Petroleum Agency SA to evaluate and promote oil and gas exploration and production activities in South Africa; regulate oil and gas exploration and the production industry; and archive all geotechnical data produced through oil and gas exploration.

The agency acts as an adviser to the government on issues regarding oil and gas exploration and production, and carries out special projects at the request of the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy. Driving South Africa’s emerging gas sector while ensuring a well-regulated and responsible environment is a key mandate of Petroleum Agency SA, as is assisting operators with monetising smaller discoveries that may otherwise remain undeveloped, through advertising these opportunities to potential partners.

As stated in South Africa’s National Development Plan (NDP), the government’s intention is to ‘enable exploratory drilling to identify economically recoverable coal-seam and shale-gas reserves, while environmental investigations will continue to ascertain whether sustainable exploitation of these resources is possible. If gas reserves are proven and environmental concerns alleviated, then development of these resources and gas-to-power projects should be fast-tracked’. The plan also calls for the need to incorporate a greater share of gas in South Africa’s energy mix through importing liquefied natural gas (LNG), using shale gas if reserves prove commercial, and developing infrastructure for the import of LNG, mainly for power production, over the short to medium term.

Petroleum Agency SA plays a crucial role in developing South Africa’s 
oil and gas market by attracting qualified and competent explotation companies

Petroleum Agency SA plays an important role in developing South Africa’s gas market by attracting qualified and competent companies to explore for gas in the country, as well as monitoring and regulating their activities. In addition to ensuring operators always comply with the law, a major area of focus is increasing the inclusion of historically disadvantaged South African-owned entities in the upstream industry. South Africa needs large discoveries of indigenous gas as well as fair access to opportunities and social licence to develop a healthy gas market. Currently, natural gas supplies about just 3% of South Africa’s primary energy.

A significant challenge facing the development of a major gas market in South Africa is the extreme dominance of coal as a primary energy source, and the industry’s historic reliance on coal-generated electricity. A lack of extensive gas transport and reticulation infrastructure goes hand in hand with this, while other challenges include uncertainty about volumes of indigenous gas available to industry; security of supply; switching and conversion costs; gas pricing; and negativity about the ongoing use of fossil fuels. End users require certainty before committing, while explorers look for a guaranteed market.

On a more positive note, opportunities for gas lie in the realisation of South Africa’s NDP and the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). Both call for indigenous hydrocarbons – conventional and unconventional – and independent power production to play an increasing role in the nation’s energy mix. The national power utility also intends to replace coal-fired power stations with gas-fired counterparts, in line with the vision of the NDP. The advent of gas-fired power stations will represent a ready, indigenous market for operators that make discoveries of gas in South Africa, ensuring it will be far easier to monetise smaller discoveries that may otherwise have remained undeveloped.

As custodian, Petroleum Agency SA ensures that companies applying for gas rights are vetted to make sure they are financially qualified and technically capable. Applicants also need to have a good track record in terms of oil and gas exploration activity, as well as regard for the environment. This applies to both local and foreign companies. Oil and gas exploration requires enormous capital outlay and can represent a risk to workers, communities and the environment. Applicants are therefore required to prove their capabilities and safety record, and must carry insurance for environmental rehabilitation.

In addition, all planned activities can only be carried out after completion of an environmental-impact assessment and under an approved environmental-management plan, after consultation with the public as well as interested and affected parties. Explorers are also required to contribute to skills development through the agency’s Upstream Training Trust.

Oil and gas exploration in South Africa is regulated in terms of the MPRDA, which stipulates that applicants for production rights are required to submit social and labour plans (SLPs) to assist in transforming the industry, promoting employment and advancing social and economic welfare in South Africa. Applicants must develop and implement, where applicable, comprehensive SLPs that cover human resources development programmes, community development, housing and living conditions, and employment equity. In addition to the MPRDA, the sector is regulated by other legislation – including the National Environmental Management Act, the Royalties Act, the Mining Titles Registration Act and the National Water Act.

These acts and regulations have served the upstream industry well and are all in line with international standards. Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe and President Cyril Ramaphosa recently stated that oil and gas exploration and production activities should have their own standalone legislation, separate from that applicable to hard-mineral mining. This legislation is being drafted and the agency is part of the team at the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy that is working on it. In today’s world, oil and gas remain the most critical of energy resources, and Petroleum Agency SA is in full support of those entering the South African oil and gas exploration and production industries. The agency is fully committed to ensuring that the government and policymakers sustain the sector for the benefit of all involved, and it will do everything in its power to advance the industry.

+27 (0)21 938 3500
[email protected]

The Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) is a wholly owned, area-based development agency of the City of Johannesburg with an emphasis on the development of resilient, sustainable and liveable urban areas in identified transit nodes and corridors. This means that as an area-based development agency, it is more than just a project-management or economic-development agency.

The JDA is mandated as an area-based development agency; it is unique in that, unlike traditional development-agency models, it straddles both a market and citizen-facing approach (not fully bound to either direction). It combines a social, economic and environmental mandate. Johannesburg cannot afford to consider economic factors only. Instead, it requires developmental approaches attuned to complexity. The JDA deals with the renovation, innovation and re-imagination of Johannesburg’s built environment and urban communities through a reinforced programme of place making and area-based development. In the past, it has undertaken and delivered projects and programmes that have been located spatially on a city, precinct or neighbourhood scale.

The agency has implemented more than 600 projects across all administrative regions of the city in 19 years of operation. Over the past five years, it has grown by almost 75% from 50 to 87 employees, resulting in a bigger capital budget and an increase in the number of projects to implement on behalf of City of Johannesburg client departments. The total capex allocation has to risen to just in excess of ZAR5 billion over the past five years. The JDA believes that the co-production of solutions in partnership with local communities and stakeholders allows for its development programmes to meet local requirements and mitigate needs. This is an essential component of development interventions in cities. It promotes a more responsible and effective approach, which is to work with local stakeholders to produce solutions, drawing on their knowledge of the development context. This can cultivate a much more sustainable sense of ownership, civic pride and citizenship.

The JDA implements capital projects across a variety of programmes aimed at achieving the agency’s ‘4Cs’, namely:

• Catalysing growth in areas with latent investment potential

• Creating robust democratic public spaces that give dignity and choice to city users

• Connecting people with opportunities to live, work, play, learn and be healthy in the city

• Co-producing solutions in partnership with local residents and stakeholders to meet local needs and mitigate community challenges.

The JDA reports to the City of Johannesburg’s department of development planning, whose mandate focuses on urban management, building control and city spatial transformation, which is under the leadership of councillor Lawrence Khoza. Implementation of strategies to transform the cityscape for the benefit of the citizens lies at the heart of the development planning department. In 2016, the City of Johannesburg metro council responded by finalising the Spatial Development Framework (SDF) 2040, which imagined an inclusive, integrated and socially cohesive City of Johannesburg.

The JDA’s projects are focused in part on promoting growth in areas with investment potential

The SDF 2040 calls for the drafting of a nodal review to give expression to the urgent spatial challenge of integration and inclusion. After months of modelling and public participation, the nodal review was approved by the council of the City of Johannesburg on 28 February 2020. This strategy promotes the idea of living in proximity to schools and places of work, and easy access to public transport infrastructure and other services. Invariably, such an approach cuts the cost of infrastructure and other services, reduces pressure on the natural environment and, through agglomeration and clustering, promotes economic growth. The JDA aligns itself to the SDF 2040 in the delivery of infrastructure to ensure there is sustainability and long-lasting benefit to the communities it serves. The work implemented by the JDA is delivered through three substantive programmes.

This programme focuses on nodal development projects (generally situated along key development corridors). Projects under this programme include the Jabulani Transit-oriented Development in Soweto and the Brixton Social Cluster, which lies along the Empire/Perth development corridor.

The delivery of health-, recreational-and transport-related projects are the basis of this programme. Projects include the Florida Clinic; the Watt Interchange, which forms part of Phase 1C of the city’s Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) System; and Paterson Park, which is a modern architecturally designed recreational facility, providing a safe space that facilitates the development of fundamental skills. These include reading and writing, in conjunction with sport, physical activity and health to stimulate growth and development in the community of Orange Grove and surrounds.

This programme focuses on the development of skills and capacity within the construction industry in Johannesburg, as well as optimising the JDA’s contribution to inclusive economic growth and empowerment, and the transformation of the construction industry. SMEs are an essential stakeholder group to be engaged on local-area projects, both for determining the economic conditions and opportunities within areas, and for identifying potential for enhancing the prospects of small business in development areas and directly in JDA projects. This allows for a meaningful connection to opportunities within the JDA’s development areas.

The JDA always seeks to engage the public in a meaningful way at every stage of development. This includes undertaking public participation in the planning stage, consultations with communities and affected parties during the design stage, and value-adding activities involving community members in projects such as the peoples’ history and heritage exhibitions, and public art projects that tell the story of the neighbourhood. One such programme that speaks to the value-adding activities of the agency is the JDA’s Public Art, Place-Making and Co-Production programme. The JDA remains committed to the continued roll-out of its Public Art programme in partnership with the City of Johannesburg’s department of community development (directorate of arts, culture and heritage), where great strides have already been made towards the creation of great places through public art. The creation of great places is also about developing sustainable adaptable spaces that are robust and resilient to changes in their local context. The JDA will in future interrogate the quality of design of public areas to enhance the level of adaptability of the spaces it establishes and the sustainability of the agency’s initiatives.

Since 2016 the JDA has re-imagined the Public Art programme not as the production of iconic pieces of art but more importantly as an interactive, community-rooted, place-making process that brings community co-production to life through art. It is the JDA’s intention that locally embedded and relevant forms of physical place-making be produced to enrich and enliven public spaces in local communities and along transit routes. Co-production is defined as the meaningful engagement of stakeholders such that local actors form part of designing interventions for the neighbourhood. This involvement means going beyond community briefings or one-on-one meetings to include, for example, design workshops; historic storytelling to share past and future visions of the space; participatory budgeting forums; thematic workshops to study specific solutions; use of social media to invite input and share information about the space; and use of multiple media platforms such as art, theatre, radio, podcasts, infographics and videos.

For instance, the focus of the JDA’s #ArtMyJozi project has been on working on local creative place-making with local people in Noordgesig, Brixton, Orange Grove and various points along the Louis Botha corridor. What is most exciting about the #ArtMyJozi journey is that it has allowed the JDA, as the city’s development agency, to really engage with the expressions of local identity in each place, space and node as part of its area-based development mandate.

+27 (0)11 688 7850
[email protected]

The Southern African Customs Union (SACU) comprises Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Eswatini and South Africa. SACU was established in 1910, making it the world’s oldest customs union.

The member states form a single customs territory in which tariffs and other barriers are eliminated on all the trade between the member states for products originating in these countries. There is also a common external tariff that applies to non-members. SACU’s objectives are:

  • To facilitate the cross-border movement of goods between member-state territories
  • To create effective, transparent and democratic institutions that will ensure equitable trade benefits to member states
  • To promote conditions of fair competition in the Common Customs Area
  • To substantially increase investment opportunities in the Common Customs Area
  • To enhance the economic development, diversification, industrialisation and competitiveness of member states
  • To promote the integration of member states into the global economy through enhanced trade and investment
  • To facilitate the equitable sharing of revenue arising from customs, excise and additional duties levied by member states
  • To facilitate the development of common policies and strategies.

SACU member states have been pursuing a co-ordinated approach towards trade negotiations with third parties. Several trade agreements have been concluded that promote the integration of SACU into the global economy.

Free trade agreement between SACU and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA)

The SACU-EFTA free trade agreement (FTA) covers trade in non-agricultural products, as well as processed (PAPs) and basic agricultural products (BAPs).

The EFTA provides duty-free, quota-free (DFQF) market access for industrial products originating from SACU countries and extends the same market access offered to the EU under their association agreement on PAPs. SACU offers DFQF on 95% of industrial goods and PAPs. Exceptions include clothing, textiles and some motor-related products.

The FTA has strengthened commercial and trade relations between SACU and the EFTA. SACU has had a positive trade balance since 2009, with an average export value of ZAR29.1 billion for the 2009 to 2018 period. The average import bill from EFTA stood at ZAR12.1 billion in the same period.

SACU’s main exports to the EFTA region include precious and semi-precious stones, unwrought copper alloys, diamonds and nickel mattes.

Through the FTA, EFTA states have committed to provide technical assistance to SACU in the implementation of the FTA. The agreement is under review to consider international economic developments and the possibility of further developing co-operation.

Preferential trade agreement between SACU and the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR)

The MERCOSUR-SACU preferential trade agreement (PTA) aims to promote trade between MERCOSUR and SACU states.

The PTA was the first trade agreement concluded by SACU as a single entity. It represents both regions, aspirations and objectives for south-south co-operation and integration.

The PTA offers preferential market access on 1 000 tariff lines. These products have fixed preference margins that range from 10% to 100%. Parties have also committed to eliminate non-tariff measures affecting the products, and to develop instruments on customs co-operation, including animal and plant health, standards, technical regulations and conformity assessments, food safety and mutual recognition of sanitary and phytosanitary measures.

Paulina Mbala Elago, SACU executive secretary

SACU experienced a trade deficit with MERCOSUR between 2012 and 2018 but export values have risen. SACU exports grew from ZAR7.7 billion in 2012 to ZAR10.4 billion in 2015, before falling to ZAR8.5 billion and ZAR8.4 billion in 2016 and 2017, respectively. In 2018, there was slight upward movement of exports amounting to ZAR9.1 billion. Imports fluctuated from ZAR21.2 billion in 2012 to ZAR35.8 billion in 2013. This performance was sustained after the implementation of the PTA in 2016, with ZAR22.4 billion and ZAR27.3 billion in imports in 2017 and 2018, respectively. SACU’s main exports to MERCOSUR include aluminium, chemicals, bituminous coal, steel products and vehicles. Imports comprise agricultural products, petroleum coke and wood pulp.

Economic partnership agreement between the EU and SADC-EPA group
The economic partnership agreement (EPA) between the EU and six SADC member states (SADC-EPA group) was signed in 2016 in Botswana. The SADC EPA group comprises SACU member states as well as Mozambique. The agreement (EU-SADC EPA) will enter full implementation once it is ratified by all EU member states.

The objective of the EU-SADC EPA is to contribute to the reduction and eradication of poverty through the establishment of trade partnership consistent with the objective of sustainable development; the Millennium Development Goals; and the Cotonou Agreement. This includes the promotion of regional integration, economic co-operation; good governance and the integration of SADC-EPA states into the global economy, as well as improving their capacity in trade policy and related areas.

Currently, the EU-SADC EPA covers trade in goods only. The agreement, however, has a rendezvous clause for future co-operation on other trade-related areas such as services, investment, competition policy and intellectual property rights. Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique and Eswatini are pursuing negotiations on trade in services with the EU.

While both the EU and SADC-EPA states offer reciprocal preferential market access, the EU provides greater liberalisation than the latter. The EU provides differential tariff treatment to SADC-EPA states, with DFQF market access to Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and Mozambique.

With regard to South Africa, the EU grants tariff elimination on approximately 95% of tariff lines, while about 4% of tariff lines are subjected to limited tariff liberalisation or will remain dutiable. The EU also maintains tariff rate quotas (TRQs) for imports from South Africa of skimmed-milk powder, butter, frozen strawberries, sugar, white crystalline powder, citrus jams, canned fruit, canned tropical fruit, frozen orange juice, apple juice, active yeast, wine and ethanol.

SACU has granted single tariff concession for the EU products at zero or reduced tariffs apart from other sensitive products. In addition, SACU gives the EU limited liberalisation through TRQs for pork, pig fat, butter, cheese, wheat, barley, cereal-based food preparations, ice cream and mortadella bologna.

SACU has recorded a trade deficit with the EU as imports continue to exceed exports. SACU exports to the EU in 2018 were valued at ZAR326 billion, compared to ZAR176 billion in 2012, while imports stood at ZAR375 billion in 2018, compared to ZAR229 billion in 2012. Motor vehicles and related products constituted the main exports to the EU in 2018, followed by platinum, at ZAR32 billion.

Among the top exports to the EU were non-industrial diamonds, machinery, unrefined copper and alloys. The main imports from the EU in 2018 were motor vehicles and related products, unused postage stamps, petroleum oils and medicaments.

The preferential market access opportunities presented by these agreements have the potential to expand trade and investment. Trade volumes have been growing steadily, but opportunities and benefits are yet to be fully realised.

An expansion of production capacity through enhanced industrialisation and diversification of manufacturing, along with increased investment, are critical for the optimal exploitation of export opportunities offered through these agreements.

International trade remains critical to SACU. However, it must be complemented by a robust industrialisation agenda to foster economic growth.

SADC Protocol on Trade
Thirteen SADC member states have signed the SADC Protocol on Trade. Its objectives are to further liberalise intra-regional trade in goods and ultimately create an FTA and enhance economic development, diversification and industrialisation in the SADC region. The protocol advocates that member states eliminate barriers to trade, ease customs procedures, harmonise trade policies based on international standards, and prohibit unfair business practices. The protocol was signed in 1996 and amended in 2000, 2007, 2008 and 2017. The aim is to eliminate all tariffs in the FTA over different phases of implementation, starting in 2000. The minimum requirement for the formation of an FTA was achieved in 2008 when 85% of intra-regional trade attained zero duty.

SACU member states have implemented their tariff liberalisation commitments under the FTA since 2012. To date, around 99.7% of tariff lines are being traded on duty-free under the SADC FTA.

Intra-SADC trade rose from ZAR69.6 billion in 2001 to ZAR459.7 billion in 2018. Since the implementation of the FTA, SACU has also been able to grow its share of trade within SADC, where SACU trade moved from a trade deficit between 2001 to 2009, to a trade surplus from 2010 onwards.

Between 2018 and 2012, all SACU member states (except Lesotho) have recorded a trade surplus in the SADC market. SACU had the largest share of exports to SADC countries in 2018, at more than ZAR352.9 billion – and imports at ZAR247.6 billion. This demonstrates the importance of the SADC FTA to the SACU economies.

The main products that SACU trades with the SADC region are petroleum oils, vehicles, diamonds, metal ores, electrical energy, as well as some agricultural products such as animal products, fish, sugar and cereals.

African Continental Free Trade Area
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement entered into force in May 2019. It covers a broader spectrum, including trade in goods, services, investment, intellectual property rights, competition policy and e-commerce.

The main objectives of the ACFTA are to facilitate the free flow of goods and services and the free movement of businesspersons, as well as investment. It aims to expand intra-African trade through better harmonisation and co-ordination of trade liberalisation and the facilitation of regimes and instruments across regional economic communities, and to enhance competitiveness at the industry and enterprise level through exploitation of opportunities for scale production, continental market access and better reallocation of resources.

The AfCFTA will provide an opportunity for the continent to expand its markets, modernise its productive capacity to effectively supply the African market, which has an estimated 1.3 billion consumers.

It will enable Africa to improve the current narrow exports base, shallow industrial base and reliance on imports from other continents. The AfCFTA has the potential to promote employment, industrial linkages, economic diversification and structural transformation in Africa. It will also drive industrial development, improve the investment climate and facilitate economic growth.

According to a UNECA study (2017), the AfCFTA has the ability to boost intra-Africa trade by 52.3%. Afreximbank notes that welfare gains stand at US$16 billion.

Industrialisation is a central pillar of the AfCFTA. SACU ministers reaffirmed industrialisation as an overarching objective for SACU in the context of the AfCFTA in September 2020. SACU is undertaking a systematic approach to deepen the region’s industrial base to position itself to take full advantage of the opportunities created by the AfCFTA.

SACU member states have identified regional industrial development as an overarching objective that underpins the region’s development and integration agenda. This is in line with the SACU Agreement 2002, the main goal of which is to enhance the economic development, diversification, industrialisation and competitiveness of member states.

Regional industrialisation is recognised as the main vehicle through which the SACU region can transform its economies and generate sustainable growth and employment, and reduce poverty.

The process of identifying tools to promote industrial development and cross-border value chains has seen a focus on the development of regional value chains.

In 2018, SACU adopted broad public-policy interventions and tools, principles as well as priority sectors that could underpin industrialisation. The agreed principles include upgrading and increasing productivity in the regional value chains; development of appropriate infrastructure; product and market diversification; and increasing the manufacturing base and engagement of the private sector.

Public-policy interventions and tools to promote regional industrialisation include trade facilitation and the development of key infrastructure; development and harmonisation of standards; research, development and innovation; development of relevant skills aligned to sectoral value chains; and a developmental approach to tariff setting to support industrial development in the SACU region.

The SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap informs SACU’s work on the development of public-policy interventions and tools to promote industrialisation and regional value chains. This ensures SACU leverages on the work that has already been done within SADC.

The strategy outlines a focus on the agro-processing; mineral beneficiation and related mining operations; pharmaceuticals; other consumer goods; capital goods; and services value-chain clusters.

The action plan identifies the products and sectors with potential enhancement. At SADC level, member states will prioritise agro-processing, mineral beneficiation and pharmaceuticals.

SACU’s priority is to advance work on industrialisation and ensure integration at a continental level through the development of regional value chains; export and investment promotion; regional financing mechanisms; trade facilitation; and pursuing the negotiation and implementation of the AfCFTA.

In line with these intentions, SACU has committed to outline its strategy to streamline the SACU Work Programme by April 2021.

+264 (61) 295 8000
[email protected]

Ndavhe Mareda, CEO of the Makole Group, is concerned about the rising level of poverty on the African continent. ‘A mineral-rich continent such as Africa will always be on the back foot globally if we do not get a grip right now, and motivate for our leaders to engage with industry stakeholders to create a mineral bank,’ he says.

‘Weak governmental balance sheets need to be countered by strong leadership. Instead of only looking to international institutions for financial assistance and proving just how good we can be at begging, we should be debating the policies that will allow us to better leverage future borrowings off the strength of state mineral banks. We shouldn’t always have to start from a low base.’

Marenda is also cognisant that the recent spread of COVID-19 on the continent has not only exacerbated poverty, it has also highlighted ailing infrastructure and fledgling economies. ‘African governments need to grow their balance sheets without such a heavy reliance on international institutions.’

Mareda is well versed in the progression of development that leads to growth. Black Royalty Minerals, a subsidiary of the Makole Group, successfully operated Chilwavhusiku colliery, the first 100% black-owned mining operation in South Africa. Its success has morphed the company from junior-miner status to a level where it now operates in the mid-tier mining realm, and is ready to compete on equal footing with larger mining houses. The success of Chilwavhusiku colliery, along with the group’s diversification strategy, has also resulted in the acquisition of the Koornfontein coal mine in Middelburg.

‘Our formula is based on leadership – not just that of our own organisation, but in recognising the leadership of the communities in which we operate,’ says Mareda. ‘There is very little that people can tell us about our communities. We are apolitical, and that provides us with a platform to work directly with all the stakeholders in a region.

Makole Group CEO Ndavhe Mareda

‘When you decide to be more involved, it is not just about what you mine, or what your particular business activities can do to help local mining communities; you need to embrace the solving of socio-economic problems,’ he says. ‘You have to partner with local ward councillors, and engage with business and other forums to understand the needs of the local economy.

‘I like to think that we trade in business leadership, and this is where we strategise heavily. In so doing, we also contribute to the policymaking of the country.’

Mareda says that the Makole Group’s immersion in community development is at a similar level to that of major mining groups, which goes a long way in securing confidence in the organisation’s future plans.

If community-based involvement is the first priority, informing and commenting on government policy is yet another pillar of support. ‘We have to take the communities’ concerns to the government to ensure that socio-economic development is not done in isolation. We have thus commented openly and publicly about the South African government’s Integrated Resource Plan, the Mining Charter and all other aspects that may impact on the whole mining value chain, which we want to be inclusive of all people and not just communities. Mining should be owned by all,’ says Mareda.

The Makole Group understands that development leads to growth, which can – and should – benefit stakeholders across the board

‘We also speak to our peers, interacting with them so that we can provide our collective leadership in the formulation of regulations and policy decisions of the future.’

The future is also something that the Makole Group is cementing in Africa. Its first exploration in Mozambique has recently been concluded with the presentation of a geophysics report. The focus is on graphite and gold.

‘Although we will be new to mining this type of mineral, our interest is firmly driven by the energy and technology needs of the future,’ says Mareda. ‘Also, the market is almost saturated with coal; we have enough reserves, so it makes sense to move into minerals for future energy, and for which demand is steadily increasing.’

The group is investigating mineral projects in Uganda and Namibia, which at this are stage, looking promising. ‘We will be driving activities that contribute to the GDP, such as job creation. It is not simply about understanding African problems; it’s about providing solutions,’ he says. ‘We want to be part of the dissemination of information. It may be that our business grew on the back of South Africa’s infamous and unequal past, but business today is no longer for “club members” only; it is open to all that believe we each have the capacity to invoke change so that we can all be better and do better.

‘Marginalised or not, anything is possible if we are all engaged on accelerating the future of Africa.’

+27 (0)11 023 9380
[email protected]

The Armaments Corporation of South Africa SOC Limited (Armscor) is an acquisition agency for the South African Department of Defence. Its mandate is to provide armed forces with the state-of-the-art defence matériel required to deliver safety and security to South Africa, its citizens and the continent. The organisation plays an important role in supplying the national defence force with proper resources to execute their duties efficiently and effectively.

Armscor has extensive experience in product development, technology development, enhancement, sustainment and disposal of products. The organisation has world-class facilities that can be used by both local and international clients to test and evaluate the performance of their defence and security-related products. It prides itself on maintaining high-quality international standards through rigorous testing and evaluation processes on all its technology-management projects.

One of Armscor’s core businesses is research and development (R&D). The R&D unit provides scientific research, test and evaluation services and technology management, analysis and innovation-management services. The organisation has capability to perform independent, centralised co-ordination and management roles for technology acquisition and technology commercialisation.

Armscor is geared towards providing unmatched sustainable defence solutions to all its clients and potential clients across the African continent and globally. Recent successes have seen the conversion of some of these traditional defence technologies in application and use in a myriad of other industries and situations, affirming Armscor’s ability to remain relevant and in the forefront of an ever-changing world.

Some of Armscor’s research and development facilities include the following defence science and technology institutes, and test and evaluation facilities.

Armscor’s Institute for Maritime Technology specialises in R&D, testing and evaluation of solutions. These include above- and underwater sensor systems, as well as applied sciences


Institute for Maritime Technology
The Institute for Maritime Technology (IMT) located in Simon’s Town, Cape Town, specialises in defence research, development, testing and evaluation of maritime systems. The division plays a key role in developing and maintaining a sustainable technology capability for providing technomilitary expertise in support of naval decision-making. IMT also has capacity to provide services to the broader maritime community and other clients as part of its commercial initiatives. Some of its specialities include above-water sensors, underwater sensors systems and applied sciences.

Protechnik Laboratories
This is where biomedical studies focusing on characterisation and identification techniques for biological warfare agents are undertaken.

It is an applied chemistry/biochemistry facility with the primary focus on chemical and biological defence R&D. Specialised fields of research include:

  • Detection
  • Warning and identification of trace amounts of hazardous chemicals
  • Protection of personnel in chemically hazardous environments (respiratory, body and collective protection)
  • Decontamination/detoxification of chemical/biological agents
  • Synthesis of test compounds and chemical verification standards in support of commitments to the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Ergonomics Technologies
Armscor is recognised as a leader in ergonomics research, both locally and internationally. Through its facility, Ergonomics Technologies (ERGOTECH), which is based in Centurion, Gauteng, Armscor provides a comprehensive range of services in ergonomics (human factors) and occupational health and safety to the South African National Defence Force and commercial clients. The services offered focus on three interlinked domains, namely research and databases; design and specification; and test and evaluation. ERGOTECH adopts a holistic approach focused on the application of its capabilities to provide human-centred solutions that optimise human performance and efficiency.

Hazmat Protective Systems
Hazmat, also situated in Centurion, manufactures and markets a comprehensive range of filter cartridges, canisters, half- and full-face masks to protect individuals against respiratory health hazards. It also manufactures impregnated activated carbon, which is used as one of the primary filter materials in the manufacture of air-purifying respiratory filters. Hazmat has a state-of-the-art carbon impregnation plant that provides it with a competitive advantage in the manufacturing of respiratory filters. These products are suitable for both the military and commercial sectors.

Based in Gauteng, the Gerotek Test Facility evaluates vehicle performance, with a focus on speed, braking, fuel consumption, acceleration 
and power output. Mobility and homologation tests are also conducted


Alkantpan Test Range
The Alkantpan Test Range is located about 70 km outside of Prieska in the Northern Cape, in a small town called Copperton. This facility is a one-stop shop for clients who want to test and evaluate their weapons and ammunition. It has six test sites and a demolition zone that can accommodate various sizes of weapons and ammunition. The range, which is about 67 km in length and 15 km wide, is located in a sparsely populated semi-desert area. Alkantpan offers much more than just ballistic-test services. From the landing strip, ammunition assembly and firing sites to the end results of test analyses, all is possible at Alkantpan.

Gerotek Test Facility
This facility is located about 20 km west of Pretoria, in the Gauteng province. Gerotek enables clients to test and evaluate the performance of vehicles in terms of speed, braking, fuel consumption, acceleration and power output. Mobility tests are conducted to measure off-road mobility, step climbing, gradient ability and ditch crossing. Furthermore, homologation tests are conducted to determine centre of gravity, speedometer calibration, stationary noise and braking performance. These state-of-the-art tracks are able to determine both endurance and reliability of vehicles, irrespective of size.

A wide range of test measurements such as strain, temperature, vibration, pressure and displacement can be supported from the instrumentation to data processing phases. Advanced driver training as well as corporate events, restaurant and conference facilities are also offered.

Corporate Communications Division

Private Bag X337 
Pretoria, 0001
South Africa
+27 (0)12 428 1911
[email protected]

A mill shell, for the gold mining industry, that weighs some 180 tons and spans 5.9m x 8m, is obviously considered an abnormal load in the transport industry. For Afrilog – the company that has been designing, executing and managing Africa-specific supply-chain solutions for some 20 years – the approach by a customer to deliver one from Vereeneging via Richards Bay, South Africa, to a site in Liberia, was therefore not considered to be particularly daunting; challenging yes, but not impossible, which proved to be the case.

Basil Pietersen, Southern Africa Group Executive of Afrilog, explains that doing due diligence prior to delivery is standard procedure, so Afrilog had anticipated and prepared for most of the challenges it would face when the mill shell arrived at the port of Monrovia, in Liberia.

‘We knew that the Liberian port was not equipped to offload the abnormal load, which is why we shipped the mill shell on a geared vessel equipped with our own cranes, to position it onto a specially imported truck. Shortly after that was when things became interesting.

‘The port exit gate was too narrow and not high enough to allow the vehicle to pass through, which required us to dismantle and rebuild it the same day,’ says Pietersen.

Group Executive of Afrilog Southern Africa Basil Pietersen

Problem solved, the truck made its way along narrow streets, encountering not only low-hanging cables and electrical wires that required disconnection and reconnection but also the physical removal and rebuilding of ‘corner shops’. Pietersen says that even these obstacles were anticipated and not of particular concern. What was, however, was the presentation of a low bridge.

‘We had previously acquired permission from the road authorities to scrape away the road surface beneath the bridge to facilitate the truck and cargo’s passing, but this permit was withdrawn on our arrival. The authorities stated that it would be too disruptive for traffic flow. The only way to move forward was to lift the mill shell from the truck and pass it over the bridge and reload it on the other side, using a crane we urgently sourced from Accra, Ghana.’

Along the 200 km route, Afrilog also filled in potholes (requiring 21 truckloads of sand) and levelled road edges so the gradient was properly in line to facilitate the balancing of the cargo. Overgrown roadside vegetation was also removed by the convoy accompanying the truck. ‘When we arrived at our destination three days later – equating to roughly 3 km/h – seasonal rains had washed away roads as well as the bridge linking us to the delivery site,’ he says. ‘Again, we improvised by filling containers with cement that we laid on the ground, which allowed the truck to pass over – and just held.’

What this highlights is that Afrilog is agile and solutions-focused; that no matter what the challenges, it will and does mobilise its networks to get cargo delivered. And it has been operating in this manner since it was established in 2000.

As a family-based business, it comes with an inherent sense of ‘ownership, accountability, dedication, pride and commitment’ – qualities the company’s highly specialised clientele in the mining, industrial, hospitality, infrastructure and construction sectors of the continent experience daily. And because Afrilog is a member of the global CSTT-AO Group (which includes AGS and Multilog), innovation is ingrained in the DNA across all businesses, with CSTT-AO Group being known as one of the logistics and supply chain pioneers in Africa.

‘African operations are co-ordinated from Afrilog’s head office in Johannesburg, South Africa, which is where we also manage client relations,’ says Pietersen. ‘From this base we have directly delivered logistics and supply-chain solutions across sub-Saharan Africa, inclusive of Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, DRC, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Senegal and Sierra Leone. We also have representation in Botswana, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mauritania, Namibia, Nigeria and Zambia.’

Some of these nations present uncertain territory, be that political or in terms of compliance regulations. ‘The inconsistencies and lack of uniformity in requirements across borders can cause significant delays in the movement of goods. We are obviously aware of the resulting financial implications for our clients, and do everything possible to minimise those,’ says Pietersen. ‘And let’s not forget epidemics like SARS, Ebola and the recent COVID-19 that have intensified the challenges of doing business, especially across multiple borders.’

Afrilog prides itself on being agile and solutions-focused

Having an on-the-ground presence in many of the countries in which it operates means that Afrilog has the ability to provide local sourcing and procurement alternatives if required. ‘Any number of multiple factors intensify the burden on an efficient supply chain on the continent,’ says Pietersen. ‘But these are impacts that stimulate our innovative nature to design integrated logistics solutions that are nimble and effective.’

The most pervasive challenges, according to Pietersen, lie in infrastructure. ‘Governments are beginning to accept that without significant investment and improvements in infrastructure, businesses cannot thrive, and they are consequently engaging with service providers like Afrilog to clarify the challenges we collectively face, and work[ing] with logistics and freight forwarders to jointly find solutions.’

Nurturing partnerships, be that with government officials or transport and port authorities, is considered crucial if Afrilog is to deliver cargo expeditiously to destinations along both known – and unfamiliar – routes.

‘We continually interact with like-minded local businesses to ensure we, and they, stay abreast of developments and, where possible, ahead of any curves,’ says Pietersen, adding that ‘these relationships are critical resources that enable us to use alternative corridors or routings to overcome political, social and climatic conditions’.

Afrilog is also supported in its procurement, sourcing and international freight forwarding operations by Belgium’s Commercial Trading Agency (CTA), and its associate company Uni-Forwarding International (UFI), which were acquired six years ago. CTA and UFI, says Pietersen, are recognised leaders in procurement services, and were brought into the stable based on their experience in servicing the African continent.

For clients, the acquisition added enormously to Afrilog’s already well-established offerings of port operations, warehouse and consulting support services, IT, project management and training. ‘We are therefore able to comprehensively and holistically approach supply-chain management projects, freeing up customers’ time and concerns so they can focus on their core business.’

Pietersen is also personally adding value to Afrilog’s reputation. He was recently appointed as president of the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Association (FIATA). This organisation represents 160 countries globally, comprising 40 000 logistics and forwarding firms that together employ up to 10 million people. ‘I am fully committed to serving the institution and playing a role in seeing FIATA projects come to fruition, and ensuring all future developments undertaken in my presidency are done so in the best interest of the organisation, its members and stakeholders. It is humbling that this honour comes to me without solicitation, and it further entrenches Afrilog’s presence in the industry. For a family-owned business such as ours, the felicitation is shared across all aspects of our business.’

This very strong sense of family is also generously invested in corporate social responsibility. Afrilog believes it is through education that poverty will be alleviated. School children in local communities are thus provided access to the basics, such as books, stationery and school uniforms. Most recently Afrilog sponsored the construction of a soup kitchen on the grounds of a church that works towards catering to the needs of an underprivileged community.

Service and a ‘can-do’ attitude are inherent in the nature of Afrilog, as demonstrated, and it’s the same philosophy that it uses when dealing with customers, and one that will not change in the future, with growth.

‘As a company our vision is to be the leading independent African service provider operating globally and as a specialist in supply-chain management and integrated logistics solutions. The bottom line is that Afrilog is, and always will always be, a projects company… Nothing is too big or small,’ says Pietersen.

‘There are incredible opportunities for businesses across the continent; to be successful one must be willing to put in the work and demonstrate a commitment to mutual benefit, and Africa will embrace you.’

134/135 Nasmith Ave, Jupiter Ext 5
Heriotdale, Germiston, Gauteng
+27 (0)11 021 5230

Next-generation data centres are rapidly gaining momentum as more banks and large enterprises embark on a digital migration strategy. Riding on a wave of cloud adoption, data-centre outsourcing is growing in popularity, as enterprises migrate away from the on-premise data centre. According to Gartner, 80% of enterprises will make this move by 2025 – while the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) believes the demands of next-generation applications and new IT architectures will force 55% of enterprises to upgrade their existing facilities.

Teraco CEO Jan Hnizdo says that colocation is an essential tool for any enterprise addressing legacy systems or considering cloud migration. ‘It’s becoming more common for the traditional on-premise data centre to cease to exist as more businesses embrace cloud adoption. A digital migration strategy is hard to achieve by remaining on-premise with ageing equipment and legacy systems.’

The ZAR2 billion JB3 expansion will offer 80 MW of total power and 20 000 m2 of white space for customers’ infrastructure needs

He adds that traditional on-premise data centres were built to entirely different specifications from today’s requirements and, as a result, are underpowered and lack sufficient cooling. They are also not resilient enough to withstand issues such as load shedding.

‘Enterprises today need to be online, in real-time, constantly. There are significant costs associated with downtime, which no business can afford, from both reputation as well as profit perspectives.’

However, building an on-premise data centre can be difficult to justify. Aside from the immense cost implications, they lack the versatility of a colocation data centre, which is becoming the preferred solution. Hnizdo says that the next-generation data centre isn’t just about a physical location for IT infrastructure, but also about being interconnected at the edge. ‘Once inside a highly connected colocation facility like Teraco, we take you closer to the core and key services and trading partners,’ says Hnizdo.

‘We essentially plug you into the infrastructure that forms the backbone of the internet. Whether it is integrating, storing, communicating or transporting intelligent data, Teraco forms an integral part of an enterprise’s digital infrastructure and strategy.’

By colocating, the enterprise has access to a multitude of digital services. ‘Colocation today includes enhanced services such as carrier neutrality, cloud-enabled services, access to multiple cloud services, and interconnects to other sites or services,’ according to Hnizdo. ‘This is critical to an enterprise that is driving digital transformation, because by being in a vendor-neutral data centre, you’re automatically connected to a network-rich environment’.

Interconnections within the data centre provide a reliable and secure way to connect as well as being more cost-effective. The Teraco ecosystem is expansive and connects customers, partners and employees directly. Collaboration is simply a connection away and it enables enterprises to offer more robust and innovative digital services to clients.

‘Being able to connect via digital channels provides immense value to the enterprise. Being able to act in real-time at the core, adapt quickly and leverage the ecosystem creates new business value and growth,’ says Hnizdo.

Locally, cloud growth has become prevalent with the arrival of big public cloud infrastructure players such as Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services. Easy, cost-effective and resilient connectivity to these cloud providers is imperative for any enterprise.

‘These cloud providers provision their services from on-ramps typically located in vendor-neutral data centres, and offer high levels of performance, reliability and scalability at a more attractive price point compared to providing it to in-house data-centre facilities,’ says Hnizdo. He adds that as a result of cloud, the bar for speed and agility has been set high. ‘The enterprise and its IT department are expected to transform into a service-type of business, which is often difficult to do in a traditional data centre.’

Teraco’s highly connected colocation facilities bring customers closer to their key services and trading partners

Part of the cloud migration push is the move to ‘software-defined everything’. While not a new concept, it’s one that takes the emphasis off infrastructure and looks to intelligent software to run business processes.

For specific enterprises, going with a multi-cloud strategy is a significant consideration. Enterprises can deploy across multiple clouds; using the services that are best suited to meet the needs at hand. Being colocated in the same facilities as the cloud on-ramps is critical for the enterprise. Colocation at the appropriate vendor-neutral data-centre facility helps de-risk the move to digital transformation.

The arrival of the world’s biggest cloud providers, Microsoft and Amazon, is a clear indication of the growing need by enterprises for cloud services in Africa. The growth of South Africa’s digital economy is set to be bolstered, as both these players establish a direct presence in the country, in what is expected to become a billion-dollar market according to the IDC.

‘The world connects here’ is what Teraco predicted when launching in 2008 and, 11 years later, the world does indeed connect at Africa’s most interconnected data-centre facilities.

Build it, and they will come
After investing an estimated ZAR2 billion in its latest expansion, Teraco says that with the addition of JB3 to its Isando (Gauteng) campus, the massive data-centre complex will offer 80 MW of total power and 20 000 m2 of white space for hosting their customers’ network infrastructure and servers.

Phase I of the JB3 facility is expected to be complete in mid-2020, followed by the second phase in December 2020.

Brewery St, Isando,
Ekurhuleni, Gauteng
+27 (0)11 573 2800
[email protected]

When Deputy President David Mabuza addressed the crowd attending the 31st World Aids Day Commemoration at James Motlatsi Stadium in South Africa’s North West province, on 1 December 2019, he stressed the importance of aiming for ‘zero’ – zero HIV/Aids infections; zero discrimination; and zero Aids-related deaths.

Mabuza, who as chairman of the South African National Aids Council (SANAC), was echoing and amplifying the heartfelt sentiments of medical practitioner and CEO of SANAC, Dr Sandile Buthelezi, who since achieving medical and management degrees has in many capacities, dedicated himself to not just the fight against the HIV/Aids epidemic, but that of TB and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Buthelezi has himself experienced the tragic loss of friends and family to Aids-related illnesses, so there is much weight behind his emphasising that, with 7.4 million infections of HIV in South Africa, the fight is not moving as fast as we want.

‘When you know how much work is being done and the investment in resources made in support, the return on investment is still slow. That return is measured in lives, and we’re just not saving enough lives as quickly as we want,’ he says. ‘While we are somewhat pleased that there has been a 40% reduction in the number of new infections since 2010, with 2016 to 2018 showing a decrease from 270 000 to 222 000, it remains that in terms of global figures, 21% of those living with HIV across the world are South African residents.

‘In today’s age no one should die of HIV/Aids or TB-related illnesses. These are preventable diseases and, in terms of TB, even curable.’

There is some comfort to be had in that 5 million HIV-infected people are on treatment, a figure that has largely been achieved through SANAC’s activities, which bring together government, civil society and the private sector in a collective response to the challenges of HIV, TB and STIs. It does this through many campaigns and activities, among them the fostering and maintaining of dialogue, guiding strategies and policies, the mobilisation and supply of resources, motivating partnerships locally and internationally, and the monitoring and evaluation of research.

‘What is key to our achieving objectives is reaching communities, especially those in rural environments,’ says Buthelezi. ‘While SANAC may carry government’s message and contributes 80% of all resources, we are dependent on civil society and the private sector to further assist us in passing on the crucial message of prevention, of the need to be tested, to go on treatment and thereafter to maintain such treatments.

Dr Sandile Buthelezi, CEO of SANAC

‘This is a comprehensive message and one that mirrors that of the UNAids narrative, which says that by 2020, “90% of people living with HIV will know their HIV status; 90% of all people diagnosed with HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy; and 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression”.’

South Africa achieved its 90-90-90 objectives in June 2018, in Eshowe, Zululand (which is in the country’s KwaZulu-Natal province) a year ahead of the goal, with results of 90% of people living with HIV knowing their status; 94% of those on antiretroviral treatment; and 95% having a suppressed viral load. These figures are confirmed by Doctors Without Borders, which along with South Africa’s Department of Health implemented a community-based model project that is being rolled out by SANAC across the country.

The project has special significance for Buthelezi, who was born in Eshowe, the oldest town in Zululand. ‘The project was all-encompassing, involving traditional and local health workers visiting homes and community venues to inform and disburse knowledge about HIV. They diagnosed, distributed and monitored treatment,’ he says. ‘Eshowe proved that when a community takes ownership of their HIV programmes, the drive towards “zero” can be manifested much quicker than other models, although we do hail all efforts that promote dialogue around the pandemic.’

These are conversations that Buthelezi says must become fashionable. ‘By that I mean the more we talk about it, the less stigma prevails. Despite all the knowledge out there, there are still pockets of discrimination. SANAC, along with the Human Research Council, in 2014 worked with different groups of HIV sufferers to examine the stigmas, and the stories were horrifying. There has been improvement since, but again this boils down to understanding the disease and being part of a community that supports sufferers.’

HIV/Aids and TB-related illnesses are preventable diseases and, in terms of the latter, even curable

Buthelezi says, however, that communities are not islands. They need the input of civil society and the private sector to achieve faster and more effective results.

‘The mining sector is notable and has had considerable success in being one of the first industries to introduce treatment and education campaigns, but they now need to take this beyond their workforce into their local communities. That said, corporates can learn a great deal from the mining industry on how to implement similar programmes.’

Buthelezi discloses that the retail sector is lagging somewhat, as is the transport sector whose drivers are vulnerable to the commercial, largely female, sex workers along the major arterial routes: ‘a major contributor to the spread of epidemics across the country’, he says.

Women are, in fact, the highest HIV-infected demographic. ‘In 2018, we determined that 62% of all HIV infections are women, but the worry is that more men are dying because men tend not to go on antiretrovirals, or when they do, they don’t sustain the treatments.’

This applies equally to TB and STIs. ‘In 2018, the World Health Organisation announced that annually South Africa recorded 500 new TB infections per 100 000 people. We still consider this high but it is a decrease on previous years, and we’re optimistic that the soon-to-be-released 2019 figures from the recently concluded, first-ever TB prevalence [study] will show further declines.

‘The STI stats are far more concerning. We’re registering more than 1 million cases a year,’ says Buthelezi. ‘It’s worrying because people are still not using condoms; they aren’t screening themselves; and they ignore symptoms. Women often only discover they have an STI when undergoing a PAP smear.

‘Women are the most vulnerable because of general attitudes in communities that show a gender imbalance, which prevails across all aspect of local life. We are working hard to change the mindset of men and society, to infuse into the psyche of the boy-child that they are not superior to women; that women are their equals.’

SANAC relies on civil society and the private sector to assist in passing on the crucial message of prevention

It’s an important message because, as Buthelezi points out, although abuse is a criminal action, the anti-crime enforcement agencies are under severe pressure and strain. ‘They cannot drive this on their own, which is why SANAC also speaks out against women and child abuse, and promotes women being appointed into positions of authority,’ he says. This was actually one of the key messages delivered by Mabuza on World Aids Day. The theme, Communities Make the Difference – Cheka Impilo, drove the point, says Buthelezi, ‘that no one should be left behind’.

Mabuza emphasised that human rights must be enjoyed by all, irrespective of gender or sexual orientation and with as much vigour as is given to end the HIV/Aids epidemic. SANAC has addressed gender-based violence through its Men Championing Change programmes. One such, Takuwani Riime, is considered of one of the most robust men-mobilisation initiatives in the country, addressing as it does the social ills perpetuated by patriarchy.

‘A platform like World Aids Day has a great purpose – it is a way for us to report back to the world and our communities on how we are progressing in the fight to end HIV/Aids as a public health threat. We can celebrate our victories, inform on the challenges, revisit the goals and, most importantly, reinforce our collective message,’ says Buthelezi. ‘However, we don’t want this day to be viewed as only an annual gesture in the acknowledgment of the pandemic.

‘Every day, thousands of people are at work in the HIV/Aids, TB and ST| field. We need the media to have a bigger appetite for their (and SANAC’s) news. What destroys organisations like SANAC and those that work for them, is not keeping the public informed enough about what we do and how society can help.

‘This is why SANAC communicates at every opportunity. [Daily], we are on social media platforms, and we try to get to as many community events as possible. We talk to people, which is something I personally encourage in my team,’ says Buthelezi. ‘You can’t expect people to do this job without leading them by example. All South Africans are jointly accountable, be that in the spread of the epidemics or the dissemination of knowledge. ‘People must take responsibility for their lives, and those with whom they come into contact.

‘Everyone has a responsibility to prevent infections. Bear in mind that there are some 50 million South Africans who are HIV-negative. We must collectively work together to ensure that, at least, it stays that way, and that we remain focused on the “zero” targets.’

Second Floor, Block E, Hatfield Gardens
333 Grosvenor St, Hatfield,
Pretoria, South Africa
+27 (0)12 748 1032

Last year, AfDB president Akinwumi Adesina presented a goal – Africa should aim for agriculture without borders. He wants technology to lead that drive, to reach millions of farmers across agri-ecological zones. ‘And why not?’ he asked the audience at the 94th US Department of Agriculture Outlook Forum.

‘Take the case of the invasive army worms devastating cereals in many parts of Africa. Pests, after all, don’t need visas to wreak havoc across borders. In the same way, technologies to tackle them and to transform agriculture should be without borders.’

This is precisely what one of the world’s top five agricultural solutions companies, UPL, has been working towards with its integrated portfolio of patented and post-patent solutions for various row crops and speciality crops. It also offers crop protection chemicals, biosolutions and seed treatments to cover the entire crop value chain, including water and soil treatments and the removal of alien plant life.

Bertha Spangenberg of the South African arm of UPL – formerly Arysta Lifestyle – says that since its inception 50 years ago, UPL has been driving ‘no limits, no borders’ through an open agricultural network that feeds sustainable growth for all. ‘Agriculture does not have to be a hard-wired linear value chain but rather an agile, fluid network of relationships and interplays that leapfrog traditional boundaries and jump straight into new opportunities. This is a scenario where connections are more personal, solutions more personalised, where there is more choice, faster access, and greater value so that sustainability is entrenched.’

UPL helps farmers overcome challenges through the use of technology

OpenAg is how UPL is taking its technology to market. It’s the company’s ‘purpose’, says Spangenberg, and stands for open-minded and win-win partnerships that broaden the space to create value along a wider food production network. This responds to Adesina’s entreaty, because not only do farmers need technologies to help them be more resilient and respond to climate change, but also to consolidate and create a collective across not just neighbouring borders, but global ones too.

‘This is driven by the need to secure the world’s food supply,’ says Spangenberg. ‘Farmers will be depending on technologies to help them become more resilient against challenges. We have a portfolio of technologies in the field from crop protection to innovative hybrid platforms. In stressing the need for more “bio”, our combined biosolutions pipeline presents an integrated pest and nutrition management programme that emphasises sustainability.’

UPL has already received unconditional regulatory approvals from authorities across the globe for its technologies, which is inspiring, particularly for Africa as it seeks, under the Technologies for African Agriculture Transformation programme, to change policy and regulatory environments to span agro-ecological zones rather than tediously going through that process country by country.

With a footprint in 76 countries and sales in more than 130, including 27 formulation and 48 manufacturing facilities, UPL is well grounded on the continent, extending across West, Central, East and Southern Africa, with its manufacturing plant in Durban, South Africa. ‘This spread has compelling value for growers, distributors, suppliers and innovation partners, whose combined knowledge and skills can inform regional markets, and help address the challenge of food shortages in Africa,’ according to Spangenberg.

‘The demand on individual farmers to produce better quality and higher yields to meet food needs in a sustainable manner is intense on the continent. One of the ways we address this issue is through our programme ProNutiva, which takes a whole-system approach beyond conventional crop protection.’

ProNutiva is revolutionary in that it integrates natural biosolutions, which in turn comprise bioprotection, biostimulants and bionutrition, with usual agricultural practices, but sustainably so. It covers plant needs throughout the season, or at a specific development stage of the crop. The result is improved grower economics and easy adaptation to evolving food chain requirements.

UPL’s combined arable and speciality crop product portfolio has some 13 000 registrations, a prudent mix of its own manufacture and outsourced supply. While no agricultural chemical company can claim that its products are 100 % natural, UPL minimises any negatives around agri-chemicals with the adoption of a sustainability plan.

‘This plan is driven to ensure at least a 30% reduction in the company’s environmental footprint by 2020,’ says Spangenberg. ‘The majority of our sites are ISO 9001-certified and include ISO 14001 and ISO 45001 accreditations. Effective safety measures are also applied across all aspects of operation guided by a continuous improvement focus.’

The company has a footprint in 76 countries and a strong focus on safety and the correct usage of chemicals

Such a focus on safety also plays out through a stewardship programme in parts of Africa, for instance Zambia and Lesotho, where UPL provides small-scale farmers with education and training on the correct usage of chemicals. ‘Servicing our customers, be those the small-scale farmers, the smaller retail stores that stock our products, or our distribution dealership network, is handled by UPL field agents whose responsibility it is to also forecast stock requirements and launch new products.

‘Training and the introduction of new products is crucial in Africa, whose farmers are largely in far-flung places, and therefore unable to leave their agri-business for long periods of time in order to stay abreast of advances in the industry. We take much-needed knowledge and advisory services to them at a local level to ensure they have the right crop-health expertise for each critical stage in a crop’s growth process.’

UPL has also recently reached an agreement with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa to work jointly in strengthening the farming ecosystem, including last-mile service delivery. ‘We will be supporting farmers through village-based adviser models and demo plots, facilitate technology adaptation, and introduce financial solutions for smallholder farms.’

The first nations to be exposed to this plan include Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Côte d’Ivoire.

Spangenberg emphasises that the UPL mission is to change the agri game; to make every single food product more sustainable. ‘We open possibility and shape the future in an interactive and synergistic way. Agriculture with no borders equals growth for all.’

7 Sunbury Park, Off Douglas Saunders Drive
La Lucia Ridge Office Estate
South Africa, 4019
+27 (0)31 514 5600