Day 4 of our South African tour started with a stop at the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria. Security was tight so we didn’t get any pictures. After clearing three passport checks we met with the agriculture specialist for Southern Africa. This USDA office is responsible for 11 different countries including South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Angola, Botswana, and Madagascar.
South Africa has a lot of potential as an agricultural producer with approximately 13% of the land mass considered arable (15 million hectares). The climate is such that they can grow almost any and every crop from cold climate fruits like apples, to grains, to tropical fruits like citrus. They have abundant acres of no arable land that can also be used for grazing cattle, sheep, and goats. Their major export markets include the Netherlands, the U.K., and many of their African neighbors.
But they also have a lot of challenges to overcome with more than 26% unemployment, poor primary and secondary education (ranked 148 out of 148 in math and science), scarce skilled labor, a slow GDP growth (only 1%), and steadily rising food inflation (up 15% in recent years). In addition to all of this U.S. / S.A. relations could be strengthened. South Afica is a part of the U.S.’s Africa Growth Opportunity Act and because they already benefit they have little incentive to pursue a free trade agreement.
Our second stop of the day was tithe Union building and the Nelson Mandela monument. The Union building was built to promote peace after the war and has one wing where Afrikans is spoken and one wing where English is spoken and then a central meeting place for all. The statue of Mandela then sits out front and over looks the entire city.
Our final stop was to a crocodile farm where they raise the reptiles for their skins. They sell approximately 2,000 skins a year when the belly skins are at least 33cm across. They have breeding stock that lay up to 5,000 eggs a year. They have an 85% success rate hatching and raising the babies. In the wild they have less than a 1% success rate. It was amazing to be so close to these incredible creatures.