Ministers in rural policy talks

A GROUP of ministers have met to devise innovative policies that will lead to a shift in rural development in the country.

Minister of Economic Development Ebrahim Patel and Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti joined KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize, MEC for agriculture, environmental affairs and rural development Lydia Johnson and MEC for economic development and tourism Michael Mabuyakhulu to co-host a policy platform on rural development in Durban yesterday.

The policy platform on rural development is aimed at stimulating fresh thinking on South Africa's economic challenges.

The panel discussion on rural development could also change the face of rural areas in the country.

The initiative, aimed at promoting coordinated governance and engaging with policymakers from across the spectrum, is spearheaded by the national Department of Economic Development.

Addressing the panel, Mabuyakhulu said the province was aiding the economy by selecting key economic sectors that have the potential to upturn the economy in the province.

He said among other prioritised sectors were agribusiness and forestry, wood, pulp and paper.

"Agribusiness and forestry, pulp and paper and furniture are all significant catalysts to the sustainable rural economic development.

"Agriculture and forestry related activity generates 77percent of the primary sector output in KwaZulu-Natal," Mabuyakhulu said.

He said the economic performance of rural areas was lagging behind that of urban areas in many parts of the world.

"While there have been many efforts to foster economic development in rural areas involving substantial public and private investments, most have failed.

"There is a pressing and widely recognised need for new approaches to rural economic development, drawing on broader learning about the sources of competitiveness in the global economy," he said.