Address by the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande on the occasion of the Agriseta annual general meeting Wednesday, 12 October 2022

Programme Director; Mr  Mayoyo Mngomezulu;

Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Hon. Chief Zwelivelile Mandla Mandela;

Chairperson of AGRISETA, Ms Sharon Sepeng;

Members of the AgriSETA Board;

Chief Executive Officer of Agri-SETA, Dr Innocent Sirovha, and the Office of the Auditor General South Africa, Mr Desmond Phungula;

Officials of the SETA;

All government Officials;

Industry and Organised Labour Representatives;

Our Traditional Leadership;

Distinguished stakeholders;

Members of the Media;

Ladies and gentlemen


Good Afternoon


Let me take this opportunity to thank the AgriSETA Board for inviting me to address this Annual General Meeting (AGM).


Given the importance of SETAs in our economic recovery and skills development, I will continue to dedicate my attention to the work of our SETAs and their progress in achieving our government developmental objectives as espoused in our National Development Plan (NDP).


Agricultural landscape


Agriculture is central in fostering economic growth, reducing poverty, and improving food security in South Africa, because more than 70% of our rural population directly depends on agriculture for their livelihoods. Lest we forget 100% of our population depend on agriculture to feed itself!


We therefore must increase our agricultural productivity, skills and our agricultural trade.


This is the reason that our Department of Higher Education and Training is committed to addressing the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequalities through various skills sectors of our economy.


My Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) on the other hand, also supports agricultural research which tracks new trends, progress and development of new technologies towards achieving food security and reducing the level of  poverty and unemployment in our country.


It is therefore important that AgriSETA collaborates with the DSI on their research work, such as the current project they are implementing in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development on the establishment of the National Biosecurity Hub.


Ladies and gentlemen


SETA mandate


The key legislative mandate of the SETAs is defined in the Skills Development Act 97 of 1998 as amended, which amongst others, directs SETAs to develop Sector Skills Plans (SSPs).


In their Sector Skills Plans, SETAs must reflect and incorporate government priorities, especially those that address our priority developmental goals, that of tackling the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequalities.


Chairperson, you will recall that in the meeting I held with our SETA Chairpersons and CEOs in March this year, we agreed that each SETA must develop skills development interventions, which amongst others should provide workplace-based learning opportunities, including for TVET college graduates.


We also agreed that our skills training interventions must also support and strengthen the District Development Model (DDM) which aims to improve the provision of services and socio-economic development in each of our forty-four (44) Districts and our eight (8) Metros.


Today I am pleased to note that AgriSETA has achieved what we agreed on in that meeting and also that the AgriSETA has achieved most of what is contained in its Annual Performance Plan (APP).


I therefore would like to congratulate AgriSETA, for having received an unqualified audit opinion, with no irregular, no fruitless, no wasteful, no unauthorised expenditure and material adjustment to the financial statements from the South Africa Auditor General.


Equally important AgriSETA has achieved 91% of its set Annual Performance targets.


There has also been noticeable improvements in the area of compliance with laws and regulations compared to the previous financial years. 


Congratulations to the CEO and his Management team and to the Board for its oversight role.


Impact of Covid 19, loadshedding and July unrest


Ladies and gentlemen


We now know that COVID-19 increased unemployment of the youth aged between 15-24 years from 59 % in the first quarter of 2020 to 61% in the second quarter of 2022.


We have also observed an increase in unemployment from 3.5 million to 3.6 million for the cohort of the youth not in employment, education and training (NEET) in the same period.

While we were putting plans to respond to COVID 19, we also had to respond to other unfortunate developments brought by the devastating floods in KwaZulu Natal and some parts of our country, including those brought by electricity loadshedding.


Indeed, the July political unrest added to the strain to the agricultural sector economic performance.


However, our economy has seen consistent growth since that shock, but not enough to return to pre-Covid 19 levels. 


Our Real GDP was at R1 131 billion in the second quarter of 2021, 1.4% down from the reading in the first quarter of 2020. 


In response to these developments, our Post School Education and Training (PSET) sector had to come up with urgent programmes which focused on supporting skills and maximised employment opportunities and entrepreneurship.


This is amongst the reasons that we agreed to increase our targets for Workplace-Based Learning (WBL) for the current financial year commencing on 1 April 2022, to 100 000.


We also targeted 20 500 opportunities for apprentices, 22 500 for artisanal trades; 31 300 for those completing learnerships and 148 000 for learners entering into various other skills development programmes, such as digital skills, crop production and plant production.


In response to the President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), on the placement of learners on work based learnerships, the AgriSETA, working with the National Skills Fund placed 500 learners in agricultural colleges. This includes the assistance of 377 students currently placed at our TVET colleges.


In the year ended 31 March 2022, AgriSETA placed about 1556 of its employees on learnerships and also placed 2 300 unemployed youth on its learnership programme.


This achievement is important because it helps us to reduce the number of young people who are not in employment, education and training (NEET).


AgriSETA and District Development Model


Ladies and gentlemen


The uptake and distribution of the COVID -19 Social Relief of Distress Grant show some shocking trends. According to the trends, over ten (10) million applications received by May 2022; 58% are women and that 39.5% of the total applicants are with Grade 10; 40.5% are applicants with Grade 12 and 5% are applicants with tertiary qualifications.


It does not come as a surprise to me that most of the Social Relief of Distress Grant applicants are from KwaZulu-Natal, accounting for 2.3 million; followed by Gauteng at 1.9 million; Limpopo at 1.5 million and Eastern Cape at 1.3 million. Other than Gauteng these were provinces that have historically been the least developed.


However, these provinces are endowed with a lot of agricultural potential to produce food, create the necessary jobs and inspire entrepreneurship to all its communities and our country at large.


We therefore need to align our agricultural skills training in line with these dictates and the District Development Model. This will ensure that we deploy our resources in areas where they are needed the most. In fact the AgriSETA needs to position itself as a champion for the District Development Model, given the character of its work!


Agriculture and the ERRP


Ladies and gentlemen


The Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (ERRP) has identified the strengthening of agriculture and food security as one of its seven (7) priority interventions.


I am glad that we are now beginning to see the increase in employment trends within this sector.


In the first quarter of 2020, the sector had about 865 000 workforce, and now in the second quarter of 2022, it has a workforce of about 874 000.


I am happy that AgriSETA in the year under review has shown its commitment to ensure that the agricultural sector creates sustainable employment opportunities and that the sector continues to recover from the COVID 19 economic disruption.


It is however important that AgriSETA focus its attention towards agribusiness and agro-processing skills, not for employability purposes only but for agricultural entrepreneurship.


I have noted that the AgriSETA received R522,7 million in 2022, compared to the R344,9 million in the 2020/2021 financial year, in skills development levies income. This is a 51.5% increase.


In the wake of the impact of Covid 19 and the need to drive the ERRP, I have instructed the National Skills Fund to prioritise agricultural skills development given the important role of agriculture in alleviate food insecurity in the light of increasing rates of unemployment.


I would therefore urge AgriSETA to directly engage with the NSF in order to maximise resources available for the provision of skills in agriculture. I have also been working with Minister Didiza, as well as yourselves to increase the provision of bursaries for students from poor families who are studying in agricultural colleges.


I also wish to inform you that, together with Minister Didiza, we are in the final stages of consultations with provinces for agricultural colleges to migrate to the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) as per Cabinet decision. AgriSETA must also see this as an opportunity of better aligning agricultural training and qualifications, and as a huge opportunity for skills development for the entire agricultural skills pipeline. 





Artisan development


We are also observing an increase in agriculture interest from our youth who continue to see opportunities in agriculture. I am delighted to observe this paradigm shift from our youth who are increasingly taking up these opportunities.


Observing this interest from our youth, the AgriSETA must take up the challenge and ensure that it further enhances its outreach programmes to all our youth in our provinces. These initiatives should be undertaken together with some of our SETAs, our municipalities and the involvement of our traditional authorities.


As you know, South Africa needs at least 60% of school leavers to pursue artisanal type training in order for our country to meet the demand for scarce skills, which includes agricultural skills.


This is amongst the reasons why there is a continuous need for us to produce qualified agriculture artisans and artisans in general to sustain industries and support economic growth in our country.


I must say that it is also pleasing to note that AgriSETA has exceeded its target for the development of artisans for the year ended 31 March 2022 with 297 learners entering artisanal development programmes. 


Although you have exceeded your annual target, you will agree with me that more still needs to be done in this area of work.


Some of you may also recall that in 2018, we embarked on a campaign to launch 26 Centres of Specialisation located in 19 of our 50 TVET colleges, prioritising 13 occupational trades in high demand, with the aim of curbing the shortage of trade and occupational skills, while reducing unemployment and poverty in our country. 


I am pleased to note that you have also supported thirty-three (33) learners in these Centres of Specialisation.


Seeking partnerships


Chairperson, you know that we agreed that all SETAs must have a relationship with the TVET college sector. Board members and CEOs of SETAs who do not forge this partnership do not belong to our SETA system.


It is also important that AgriSETA must increases it support for the TVET and Community Colleges in the massification of the agricultural skills by identifying short, medium and long-term projects.


As you know, as per the announcement by the President in his 2022 State of the Nation Address, 10 000 unemployed TVET graduates are to be placed for in-service training, learnerships and internships. We asked that each of our 21 SETAs must at least target to place no less than 500 such graduates. I expect AgriSETA to play its role in this regard.


These plans must continue to feature prominently in the AgriSETA Annual Performance Plans.



We must also seek collaboration with the South Africa’s Agriculture Business Chamber to leverage South African private sector investments to further develop our agribusinesses.


This will ensure that we pull resources together to attain maximum benefit out of this collaboration especially in increasing agricultural productivity, improved agro-industry and access to financing, marketing and distribution value chains.


In some of my international travels, I have noticed that there are huge market opportunities for many of South Africa’s agricultural products, and yet we are not fully taking these up eg. Our avocados and wine in the Asian markets like Japan and China. These are opportunities that must also be available for black farmers as well, and skills development has a crucial role to play in this regard.


I have also noted that you received R19 million from the Department of Public Works donor-funded projects. This is a welcome development which must change the lives of our communities provided we remain prudent and purposeful in utilising these funds.


Master Skills Plan


Ladies and gentlemen


I would like to remind all of you that we now have begun the process of crafting our ‘one country Master Skills Plan’. The Plan will promote a more efficient and effective mechanism for our country-wide skills planning.


The master skills plan draws on the information available in existing plans, such as the National Skills Development Plan, Human Resource Development Strategy, Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, ERRP Skills Strategy, National Plan for Post School Education and Training, SETA Skills Sector Skills Plan, Master Economic Sector Plans, and National, Provincial and Local Government Skills Plans.


Having said that, the agricultural sector remains critical in this process and the AgriSETA must continue to contribute to this process and ensure that its objectives are realised within the agricultural sector.


AgriSETA must ensure that it continues to train, train and train our youth in all agriculture related skills in order to ensure that agriculture continue to play its dominant role in growing and developing our economy.


In conclusion, let me express my sincere gratitude to you, the Chairperson and the entire AgriSETA Board, and the CEO and his Executive Committee for inviting me to this important session.


I also want to thank all the stakeholders that are working with the AgriSETA, from Members of Parliament, Provincial governments, Local Municipalities, Amakhosi, Trade Unions and business formations.


Wishing you a successful AGM!


Thank you


© 2021 Department of Science and Innovations . All Rights Reserved.