Standard Bank Group will increase its investment in the Standard Bank Centre for AgriLeadership and Business Development at Stellenbosch University to R5.13-million over the next three years. This is up on the R3.45-million support Standard Bank Group provided over the past three years.
Willie du Plessis, head of Agribusiness at Standard Bank South Africa, says, "It is important that we maintain the momentum of the centre's success since its launch three years ago. The centre has driven crucial engagement and thought leadership in theSouth African agricultural sector. It has established itself as a credible and independent source of insight, both for government and the agri value chain as a whole."
The centre has initiated a number of 'imbizos' or leadership laboratories in which industry leaders contribute information and ideas to address sector concerns such astransformation, land reform, employment and unity. It is part of Stellenbosch University's Hope Project initiative. Input from the imbizos was incorporated into the National Planning Commission's chapter on agriculture.
"We were fortunate to have Professor Mohammad Karaan, dean of Agrisciences at Stellenbosch University and a commissioner on the National Planning Commission, contribute as an imbizo facilitator," says Professor Johan van Rooyen, director of the Standard Bank Centre for AgriLeadership and Business Development. "He was able to interpret the outcomes of the imbizos for the National Planning Commission."
Prof van Rooyen says that because the centre is recognised as independent and neutral within the agro-industry, opinions and ideas are freely expressed. The imbizos therefore allow some of the best minds in the industry to collectively deliver constructive outcomes for agriculture and the broader economy.
"The centre also played a pivotal role in establishing the Agri Sector Unity Forum (ASUF) last year. This body aims to drive a unified approach to the sector's challenges, which will be the fastest way to resolve industry issues as they arise," he says. The centre will continue to host imbizos throughout the next three years, extending discussions to issues such as the future of agriculture, training and skills development, water governance and renewable energy, the continued focus on productivity and competitiveness, and reinvestment to grow the sector. "Future imbizos need to continue contributing new information to hotly debated topics in agriculture," Professor van Rooyen says. "The centre will also commission research into these topics, providing fresh views and triggering new thinking. A number of case studies have already been published." Apart from industry engagements, the centre will also be refining its approach toward mentoring new and small-holder farmers and providing leadership and business management skills.
"Standard Bank's Enterprise Development division and PriceWaterhouseCoopers have developed ashort course for the centre through which Business Development Support (BDS) providers in the agricultural sector can gain accreditation," Mr du Plessis says. "The accreditation of BDS providers will ensure that small holder and medium scale commercial black farmers get structured support to access markets, finance and other players in the value chain."
The centre has attracted international attention, engaging with Britain's Royal Agricultural College and the African Fellowship Trust on the African Leadership Programme, an exchange programme in which South African agribusinesses offer internships to students from the rest of Africa who are engaged in various agribusinesses, for the purposes of knowledge and skills transfer.
"We are pleased with the contribution the centre is making to the long term sustainability and productivity of the agricultural sector in South Africa," Mr du Plessis says. "Our objective for the next three years is to broaden and deepen its impact." For more on Stellenbosch University, visit http://www.sun.ac.za.
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