If you studied agriculture, you are less likely to become a dollar millionaire

There has been plenty of talk about young people finding agriculture unfashionable, and there seems to be a consensus position that something needs to be done to make agriculture more attractive. Prominent young agricultural economists such as Wandile Sihlobo and Thabi Nkosi have been at the forefront of shoring support for and promoting agriculture in South Africa as a career choice. This message, however, will be dampened by the fact that those that study agriculture are less likely to become US$ millionaires, compared to other professions.

A recent article by BusinessTech has brought evidence to re-inforce the general opprobrium of the sector’s “poor man’s” status. Agriculture is not among the top 7 most rewarding professions in South Africa – which explains why many youth would rather go for Law, Finance and Economics, Accounting, Computer Science, Medicine, Engineering, Actuarial Science. If you studied law, there is a 27% chance that you will be among the High Net Worth Individuals (HNWI) – i.e. individuals who have net assets of $1 million or more.

Table 1: What HNWIs have studied

Screen Shot 2018-04-08 at 4.10.57 PM

Source: BusinessTech (https://goo.gl/kJkzSK)

Table 2: What industries HNWIs are involved in

Screen Shot 2018-04-08 at 4.33.38 PM

Source: BusinessTech (https://goo.gl/kJkzSK)

Overall, only 8.3% of HNWI that are engaged in agriculture are dollar millionaires. This is far less than other prominent sectors such as Financial and Professional Services – which includes banks, law firms, accountants, fund managers and wealth managers – (26.8%); and Real Estate and Construction (19.7%). The one caveat to take into account is that agriculture is comingled with mining – meaning that the actual percentage for agriculture alone is much less than 8.3%. One can argue that this number can improve if agriculture is also considered within the context of the farm-to-fork perspective. So if off-farm opportunities are considered – which include other parts of the value chain, such as the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) industry linked to  food processing, distribution and retail, then you can add 6.4% to bring the total percentage to double digit levels.