National Biodiversity Framework

In October 2018 the draft National Biodiversity Framework (NBF) was published for public comment. The NBF is a requirement under the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (10/2004). Considering that South Africa is the third most biodiverse country in the world, the government, as custodian of the country's biodiversity, has implemented approximately 30 national strategies, frameworks and systems in the biodiversity sector. The NBF's purpose is to coordinate and align the efforts of the many organisations and persons involved in the complex interplay between these strategies.

South African bioeconomy's acceleration

One of the NBF's objectives is to recommend key interventions or accelerators to facilitate the Biodiversity Economic Strategy's implementation. These recommended measures include the expansion and strengthening of the National Biodiversity Economy Strategy (NBES).

One such mechanism provided in the NBES is the launch of the Bio Products Advancement Network South Africa (BioPANZA). BioPANZA is a collaborative initiative between the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), the Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Trade and Industry. BioPANZA is still in its early stages, but it is mandated to harness existing initiatives and new opportunities that exist in bioprospecting in South Africa and address the innovation chasm that exists between early product development and commercialisation. This is to be achieved by:

  • promoting local innovation and product development including through business incubation and the establishment of local production facilities;
  • promoting access to financial assistance;
  • facilitating access to information (eg, relevant legislation, funding opportunities, research opportunities and market sector information);
  • promoting networking and organising events; and
  • providing trade and export information centres or platforms nationally or internationally.

Another mechanism provided in the NBES is Operation Phakisa, which aspires to create 10,000 new jobs in the bioprospecting industry and contribute R1.7 billion to South Africa's gross domestic product at 10% a year by 2030. To achieve this, the NBES aims to promote the local bioprospecting economy through:

  • facilitating a mass cultivation drive of 25 plant species of strategic importance to increase cultivation by 500 hectares a year;
  • implementing management plans to ensure sustainable wild harvesting of seven high-value plant species;
  • creating an environment that promotes the transformation of informal indigenous biological resource (IBR) trade in the formal biotrade sector;
  • promoting gender equality in the local bioprospecting sector and building and supporting business capacity and entrepreneurship for marginalised communities and traditional knowledge holders who engage in business;
  • fast tracking legislative amendments to the Biodiversity Act to ease compliance, while ensuring the fair and equitable sharing of benefits with IBR access providers and traditional knowledge holders; and
  • improving efficiencies in the bioprospecting access and benefit sharing agreement system.

Investment opportunities

The DEA has launched an initiative under the NBES called 'thegamechanger.co.za'. The website showcases several world-class biodiversity projects in which the DEA has invested, either in the wildlife or the bioprospecting sectors, which provide investment opportunities. For example, the Bitou pilot project in the bioprospecting sector offers potential investment opportunities in the medicinal plant industry where indigenous plants such as Honeybush and Kougoed are being sustainably cultivated for supply to the local and international market and for further processing. Although a relatively small number of projects is showcased at present, the website is useful for monitoring those seeking investment opportunities.

Comment

South Africa's rich biological diversity clearly provides economic growth and development opportunities in the country. However, it must be managed in a sustainable way. If successful, the green economy will likely be an important contributor to South Africa's economic progress.

For further information on this topic please contact Joanne van Harmelen at Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs Inc by telephone (+27 21 410 2500) or email (jvanharmelen@ensafrica.com). The Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs Inc website can be accessed at www.ensafrica.com.

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