Biodiversity Economy Indaba ends with pledges for radical transformation and growth

12 March 2018


Biodiversity is an economic sector that can contribute to radical socio-economic transformation in South Africa, said the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa during the recent Biodiversity Economy Indaba in East London.

The 3rd BEI ended with pledges by stakeholders in the wildlife, bioprospecting/biotrade and eco-tourism sectors to ensure greater inclusivity and transformation.

The sector is also a complete greenfield area where Previously Disadvantaged Individuals mainly possess knowledge in their own right and must be supported to use their indigenous knowledge to open and introduce new products in the bioprospecting/biotrade sector of the biodiversity economy.

Transformation of the biodiversity economy sectors and inclusion of Previously Disadvantaged Individuals in the sector were adopted as key outcomes of the three-day Indaba, which was attended by more than 800 national and international delegates. It was during the Indaba that Minister Molewa described transformation of the biodiversity sector, in particular, as a necessity in shaping and positively changing the livelihoods of communities in far flung rural hinterlands.

“This is more so in the context of South Africa, where policies of the past were exclusionary, thus depriving the majority of our people from actively participating in sectors of the economy. It can’t be justified that the custodians of the genetic resources and equally the holders of the traditional knowledge, are treated as non-equals in the beneficiation of their resources,” she said.   

The Indaba was convened under the theme: “Entrepreneurs meet investors, for a thriving and inclusive biodiversity economy,” linking various stockholders and aspirant entrepreneurs in the wildlife, bioprospecting and eco-tourism sectors with investors and related markets. The ultimate objective of the Indaba was to propel discussions with an aim of growing a sector that has enormous economic potential, especially for communities that live in deep rural areas of the country.

In recent years, the biodiversity economy, which is an important contributor to job creation and rural development, has shown a constant annual growth of six percent.

The dialogue took place within the context of the National Development Plan, the National Strategy for Sustainable Development and international obligations emanating from the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) including the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing, as well as the Aichi targets and the implementation of the CBD Strategic Plan.

Discussions were informed by the National Biodiversity Economy Strategy (NBES) and Action Plan adopted and approved by Cabinet in 2015. This 14-year Strategy is the country’s blueprint for sustaining the growth of the wildlife and bioprospecting industries. The trategy provides a basis for addressing constraints for growth in the sector by outlining stakeholder responsibilities and monitoring progress with regard to Transformative Enabling Interventions.

The Department of Environmental Affairs is working in partnership with key sectors in the science and technology, trade and industry, rural development and land reform, agriculture, forestry and fisheries, small business development, tourism and economic development in implementing the strategy.

Delegates confirmed the industry growth goal set in the Strategy, which requires that by the year 2030, the South African biodiversity economy will achieve an average annualised GDP growth rate of 10% per annum in line with the National Development Plan’s Vision 2030.

The NBES provides the opportunity to develop the rural economy of the country while addressing environmental imperatives of government, and includes the establishment of a National Biosprospecting Forum to enhance development in the natural ingredients sector, launched during the Indaba.

During the Indaba, government, investors and industry stakeholders from wildlife, bioprospecting and biotrade, and eco-tourism sectors pledged their commitment to the development and economic growth of a sector of South Africa’s economy that has the potential to become one of the largest contributors to the country’s GDP.

Among the pledges included the South African National Parks (SANParks) which undertook to donate 3 000 head of game to emerging wildlife farmers in the next three years, the pledge to donate 1 200 head of game over four years by Ezemvelo KZN wildlife, and the promise to donate 1 500 animals by the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency  in support of transformation and mobilisation of rural previously disadvantaged communities over five years.

Wildlife Ranching South Africa committed to socio-economic opportunities with government departments to sustainable livelihoods and the successful implementation of land reform.

While the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) pledged to provide technical support for a sustainable wildlife economy as well as on ethical bioprospecting/biotrade that promotes ecosystem resilience, the Traditional Healers Organisation pledged to create awareness on biotrade, ecosystems & wildlife conservation and trade and to contribute to legislative and policy review and development in support of sustainability. Cape Bush Doctors pledged to continue promoting awareness on the value of our biodiversity and to continue in the rich traditions of our ancestors and to promote sustainable harvesting as has been practiced for more than 25 000 years.

Minister Molewa, working with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform and the Eastern Cape Provincial Government, led by the Premier and MEC for Economic Development Environmental Affairs and Tourism, kicked off the three-day indaba with a community beneficiation project.  At the event in Double Drift members of the Nofingxana community received their title deed and celebrated their  entry to the wildlife economy through the loan of 10 Cape Mountain Zebra, 20 Red Hartebeest by the ECPTA. The Department of Envirnmental Affairs gave them infrastructure grant support valued at an amount of  R6 million in their 1300 ha community land.

Dr Molewa described the launch as a “new era in conservation - where local  communities and government joined hands in fighting the economic ills of poverty, unemployment and inequality through the sustainable use of our biological resources for the economic benefit of our communities”.

Delegates agreed to pursue the following actions:

Wildlife Economy:

  • Create a condusive environment for a fast-tracked transformation within the wildlife, sectors.
  • Address Legislative hindrances through the harmonization of national and provincial legislation, the centralisation of the permitting system and fast-tracking legislative processes in order to allow transformation
  • Awareness, skills development, capacity building programmes
  • International cooperation and branding SA wildlife industry as a contributor to conservation, sustainable use and enhancement of  community livelihoods
  • Address risks and reputational issues 
  • Ensuring meaningful community participation and
  • Encouraging partnerships and investment in the sector.


  • Fast-tracking the finalisation and operationalisation of the Bio Products Advancement Network South Africa (BioPANZA) by 2019
  • Finalising amendments to the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act and the Bioprospecting and Benefit Sharing (BABS) regulations 
  • SADC secretariat to organise a formal regional preparatory meeting towards the COP-MOP3 for the Nagoya Protocol in Egypt later this year
  • Transactional advisory committee to look into indigenous biological/genetic resource value in order to create appropriate provisions to promote fair and equitable beneficiation.


  • Bringing on board investors for business expansion while providing enterprise and skills development
  • Unlock eco–tourism infrastructure and explore preferential procurement procedures
  • Promote and facilitate marketing opportunities for the sector
  • Leveraging of international relationships i.e Multilateral Agreements;
  • Create linkages between the formal tourism sector and local economy;
  • Capitalise on integration of land use to develop strong linkages between tourism and other economic sectors;

The 3rd Biodiversity Economy Indaba  ended with a Biodiversity Street Parade by more than 500 school children along the Esplanade in East London which was designed to raise awareness about South Africa’s genetic resources and how they should be utilised on a sustaibale basis.    

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Albi Modise
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