If the correct interpretation of the commerce term “gateway” is used, then Limpopo represents that regarding the African market for South Africa. It is very unfortunate that literature “development and economics” is full of studies about the socio-economic problems that are experienced on daily basis by the peoples of that Province. This, in my view, even overcrowd the real status of Limpopo as an economic actor in the broader scheme of things. A province that has striving mining, a province with a vibrant agricultural sector as well as hunting and above all, a province with a great history.
Limpopo is the home of King Sekhukhune, King Makhado Ramabulana, and The Rain Queen Motjatji. It is also the home base of the largest church in Africa – Zion Christian Church, and the heritage site of Maphungubwe.
As if this is not enough, geography places Limpopo as an entry/exit to South Africa in terms of the Cape to Cairo corridor of the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA).
Is Limpopo claiming its gateway status?
A simple answer – I am not sure. Let me just put my thoughts in it.
The OR Tambo Airport (air) in Gauteng has made Gauteng the gateway “in terms trade in services” to and from South Africa, with King Shaka Airport and the Cape Town International also playing their roles. The Durban Harbour (water), as one of the busiest harbours in the Southern Hemisphere, makes KwaZulu Natal to be known as South Africa’s “gateway in terms of goods to the rest of the world” with the Cape Town harbour, and Port Elizabeth playing their part too.
What seems to be a silent reality is a rightful claim that Limpopo is by far South Africa’s inland corridor (road) to the rest of the Continent, far exceeding any other mode of movement to the Continent. Limpopo has not, in my view, laid its claim in no uncertain terms as a gateway. What seems to be clear is that it claims its status as a leading producer of vegetables and sub-tropical fruits – and I must say that is also correct and also as a substantial producer of livestock. Limpopo is by far South Africa’s leading producer of tomatoes as well as avocadoes, and mangoes. This has led to some of the most innovative product development such as achaar (un-ripen mangoes with oil and spices) – without taking away some of the shared glory with North West and Mpumalanga.
Bad publicity – focus of academic development
The province of Limpopo is often mentioned for its socio-economic challenges, as one of the poorest Provinces. The resident Universities of Limpopo have experts in dealing with the problems or rather challenges of that province. It looks like somewhat experts and communicators have turned a blind eye on the prospects that the province has. Long before I even met my colleagues/friends who originate from that Province, I understood it to be one of the poorest in South Africa (from development economics literature). I never came across a paper or an article in popular magazines (I must acknowledge that I did not have access to a wide range though) that looked at the brighter side – I do not want to blame those who chose to write the things they wrote about it. I have chosen to pen this piece that I am more than happy to have people question or dispute. If there is one thing that has not attracted academic attention and maybe publicity, it is Limpopo’s best geographic location of the Province as a gateway to the continent for both trades in goods and services.
There is one other matter that needs critical engagement – that a province that is a net exporter of the said fruit is possibly a net importer of juices of the same produce. There is a room for improvement in the development or upscaling of juice infrastructure in Limpopo for it to reduce some of the post-harvest losses and take the market opportunity.
I am not a brand specialist but it looks like an intuitively obvious fact that Brand Limpopo must take the gateway aspect to the centre of the brand. Limpopo is naturally endowed to produce fruits and must consider developing juicing capacity especially for concentrates.
Author: Bonani Nyondo – Agricultural Economist.
Disclaimer: The Views and Opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Mzansi Agriculture Talk.