What is the business and political environment for agriculture in the DRC?
SRK: Not much is known about the business and political environment for agriculture, and that is the challenge. It is not a traditional sector for investment in the Katanga Province, so investors are cautious about moving in rapidly with large projects. If we consider agri-processing, for instance, there may not be a sufficient supply of regular, affordable power – although Katanga is better placed than other provinces due to the development of the mining sector there.
There are similar concerns with regard to other infrastructure like water, rail and roads.
It is expected that Inga 3 and other power projects will eventually satisfy the growing need for power across sectors, including agri-processing, but the timelines on these projects are uncertain.
On the positive side, the government is supporting agriculture projects, and mining companies are required to cultivate 500 hectares directly or to support communities in doing that.
How can the issue of food security be addressed in a sustainable way?
In my view, food security could be enhanced by establishing a reliable supply of agricultural goods and increasing productivity on farms. Focus has to be placed on developing the sector holistically, including the development of agricultural value chains, storage facilities, roads and related infrastructure – as farmers need to move their production over large distances to where it is required.
What role do you envision technology playing in the economic viability of agriculture operations in the Katanga Province?
There needs to be a balance between mechanisation and local employment. In that context, however, technology is essential when preparing the land and harvesting, and the African Milling plant in Lubumbashi represents state-of-the-art technology that will help ensure regular supply of a good product.
How strong are the ties between mining and the developing agriculture sector?
For SRK, there might be more opportunities for agriculture tied to the mining sector. Mining is frequently the engine that drives the establishment of other sectors, and is often the reason why infrastructure is developed, railways rehabilitated, or power lines set up. Mining is a powerful economic driver from which other industries can grow, and agriculture in a place like Katanga is a natural next step after mining.
Katanga has phenomenal resources, such as a huge land area and fertile soil; I think it offers a fantastic opportunity for agricultural development.
Can you expand on the idea of ‘corridors of development?
In cooperation with donors, SADC and the African Union are developing a range of spatial development corridors throughout the continent to increase trade and development. For instance, a number of corridors – comprising major railway lines and roads – link the DRC to the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. These provide export opportunities to agri-businesses in the country, including Katanga.
Thank you for your time and insights.
About SRK Consutling: www.srk.co.za
SRK Consulting is a leader in natural resource and development solutions, providing independent technical advice and services through over 50 offices in 22 countries, on six continents.