Speech by the Limpopo MEC for Economic Development, Environment and Tourism, Mr Seaparo Charles Sekoati, on behalf of the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Honourable Edna Molewa, at the first annual Biodiversity Economy Indaba

12 November 2013, Polokwane, Limpopo Province

Programme Director;
Members of the Executive Council;
Members of Parliament;
Traditional Leaders (Kgosi/Amakhosi/iiNkosi) and other Community leaders;
Premier of Limpopo Province, Honourable Stanley Mathabatha;
Executive Mayor of Capricorn District Municipality, Cllr Lawrence Mapoulo;
Deputy Director-General: Biodiversity and Conservation, Mr. Fundisile Mketeni;
Chief Executive Officers of our National Parks, Provincial Parks and Reserves and Agencies;
Presidents and Chairpersons of Hunting Associations and other associations representing various sub-sectors in the wildlife industry;
Representatives of the bio-trade and bio-prospecting sector;
Distinguished guests;

Ladies and gentlemen,

On behalf of the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Mrs Edna Molewa, I welcome all of you here today, in the beautiful surroundings of Polokwane, which is a hub of activities involved in sustainably deriving value, from our wealth of plant and wildlife.

The Minister has conveyed her sincerest apologies for not being able to attend today’s gathering due to another urgent commitment. It is indeed a great honour and a privilege for me to address you at the First Biodiversity Economy Indaba, which has brought together such a diverse group of stakeholders.

This is a unique opportunity to interact, share best practice and inform policy, by pooling together the knowledge of leaders and chaptains of industries in the biodiversity economy, including the hunting; game farming and related activities industries; as well as the bio-prospecting, natural products and bio-trade industries.

As Minister Molewa had committed in the Department’s Budget Vote earlier this year, we will embark on a dedicated programme to provide support to the hunting and bio-prospecting industries. This is in order to promote South Africa as a destination of choice for hunting, and as one of the most resource-rich countries to contribute to bio-prospecting. Our two-day conference, which started with a technical session yesterday, is just one of the many interventions we planned in this regard.

South Africa is an important emerging market, with an abundant supply of natural resources, and ranks as the third most mega-biodiverse country in the world. As such, we recognise that there is a need to balance economic and other development goals with that of environmental sustainability for the benefit of present and future generations. Ournatural capital is both a focus area of the green economy strategy and an area of intervention identified in the national sustainable development strategy.

To many people, 'biodiversity' is a misunderstood concept.  In simple terms, Biodiversity is all the plants and animals that we have, as well as their interactions and the differences between them. These interactions, which also include human beings, provide us with a number of essential natural services that we call ecosystem services. These services include food production, material for shelter, clean air and water, medicines as well as places for healing and enjoyment. Moreover, the ecosystem services that are derived from biodiversity are considered alongside its potential to yield economic benefits, contributing towards improving livelihoods and creating employment. These are the foundation of human well-being, and as your industries in the hunting sector and bio-trade also indicate, a vital source of many of our livelihoods.

Biodiversity is Life!

Hunting and bio-trade as contributors to job creation in the Green Economy

The biodiversity economy, which is part of our Green Economy, is uniquely placed to give us a competitive edge in growing our economy. South Africa views the green economy as a sustainable development path that is based on addressing the interdependence between economic growth, social protection and natural ecosystems. The South African National Biodiversity Institute has calculated that South Africa’s ecological goods and services are valued at R73 billion, equivalent to about 3% of the national GDP.

Let me allow that figure to sink in: R73 billion.

The sustainable use of indigenous biological resources is fundamental to the development of South Africa’s economy. The bio-prospecting, wildlife ranching and the hunting industries in particular, are also integral to our contribution to sustainable development and green jobs in South Africa.

Recent estimates have placed the bio-prospecting industry’s contribution to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product at R2.1 billion, which places the overall contribution of the direct utilisation of indigenous biological resources at R8.3 billion. In the previous financial year, the entire value chain of the hunting industry contributed some R6.2 billion to the South African GDPand according to Wildlife Ranching South Africa, the commercial wildlife ranching industry contributed R9 billion to GDP.

It has been reported in a recent study by the North West University that local hunters spend on average R2.6 billion on general expenses and a further R3.96 billion on game animals annually. This is a contribution of R6.56 billion based on the 2010 year. The Professional HuntersAssociation ofSouth Africa, which is represented here today, has put the overall value of the wildlife industry to the national economy at R7.7 billion. The industry is said to employ 140 000 people. The Confederation of Hunting Associations of South Africa says that the sector is now bigger than the sugar and dairy sectors. Our department calculated that the revenue generated directly by hunting in 2010 was R560 million.

Invest R5 million in cattle and in five years you will earn a return of 4.8% on your money. Invest the same amount of money in sable antelope, and the value of your investment could go up by 45.2%. This is according to the figures drawn from the 2013 Absa Agriculture Outlook. 

Commercial wildlife ranches cover 16.8% of the country's landmass, with about half of these in Limpopo Province where we have gathered today. The Northern Cape has about 20%, with the Eastern Cape home to 12% of the country's ranches. In addition to this, South Africa in 2013 has 60% more wildlife than it did in 1900 and a total of about 16 million game animals now inhabit the land. The value of game has also increased exponentially.

Rare animals such as the sable antelope can bring returns of over 45% on investment, while a buffalo with a good pedigree can attract incredible prices at auction. Some of you may recall the auctions in 2012 where a single buffalo cow and a single bull were sold for R20 million and R26 million respectively. More recently, in September this year (2013) a single buffalo bull was sold for R40 million. This auction brought in a total of R230 million. These are not figures to be taken lightly, as this is a sector with the scope to do much more to improve the lives our people.

The bio-prospecting industry, based on export trends, has grown, on average, by 6.0% per year over the period 2001 - 2011. The potential market size of the bio-prospecting industry, based on resource permit application data, is at least R2. million per year. This means that the current industry has reached only about 20% of its potential, and thus has a large growth potential. This market may grow to between R600 and R800 million over the next 5 years (2013 - 2018).

The bioprospecting sector is an important job creation sector. Job creation occurs throughout the whole value chain.  The value chain segments of wild harvesting, cultivation and bio-trading holds the highest potential for generating new job opportunities. These segments, together, currently generate an estimated 2 100 jobs. It is possible that an additional 700 to 1 700 new jobs may be created in this industry, by 2018, depending on the market growth trajectory achieved. The wildlife sector has also created and still has potential for job creation. Between 5 000 and 6 000 jobs are provided by the industry, whilst approximately 63 000 jobs are provided by secondary industries such as tourism.  According to PHASA an average of 14 jobs are created across the value chain for every 1 international hunter-tourist that visits South Africa.

Private sector support and contribution by institutes such as the  Confederation of Hunters Association of South Africa (CHASA) and the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (PHASA) to education, empowerment, job creation and skills development is acknowledged with appreciation.  CHASA’s contribution to skills development in the sector is evident from their training programmes for primary, secondary and tertiary level leaners. Primary school children are exposed to nature-related activities such as photography, camping, hiking and hunting while being taught the importance of sustainable utilisation and protection of our natural resources.  Secondary school children are offered a training programme on the principles of sustainable utilisation through responsible and sustainable hunting, while tertiary level students studying towards a qualification in Game Ranch Management are supported through additional short courses, firearm training and providing support to students with applications for firearm licences. PHASA has joined forces with the NGO Toys for Africa and are distributing educational toys with a message about conservation and sustainable utilisation. It is reported that 12 000 children have already benefitted from this initiative in the last 3 months. PHASA has also raised R9 million over the past 7 years for the South African Wildlife College, where more than 900 previously disadvantaged individuals, including women, have been trained and equipped with skills and knowledge to work in the wildlife sector.

Since the Regulations on Bioprospecting, Access and Benefit Sharing came into effect:

  • 14 Bioprospecting and Biotraders permits were approved and issued.
  • 20 Benefit Sharing Agreements and 70 Material Transfer agreements were concluded with access providers and traditional knowledge holders, which provide for monetary and non-monetary benefits for communities were approved; and
  • Over 450 communities are involved in harvesting, cultivation, processing and packaging of the products.

These permits therefore contribute significantly to job creation, poverty alleviation, improving health, creation of equitable society which are government’s main priorities

Ladies and gentlemen,

The transition to a green economy in South Africa is linked to several key policies, strategies and plans including, amongst others the 2030 National Development Plan (NDP) endorsed by Cabinet in 2012.

Other strategic documents which refer to the need to manage the nation’s natural resource base for sustainable development include:

  • the 2020 New Growth Path endorsed by Cabinet in 2011;
  • the 2014 National Strategy for Sustainable Development (NSSD1) endorsed by Cabinet in 2011;
  • the National Climate Change Response Policy endorsed by Cabinet in 2011;
  • as well as the Industrial Policy Action Plan.

In addition, the Department of Environmental Affairs has established a new Chief Directorate for the promotion and development of the biodiversity economy (Biodiversity Economy and Sustainable Use). The development of a National Biodiversity Economy Development Strategy (NBEDS) is one of the key focus areas of this newly created Chief Directorate. The NBEDS will focus on realizing economic benefits from South African indigenous biological resources. Despite the rich biological diversity of South Africa, relatively few species are economically utilized. Export and use of South Africa’s biodiversity, particularly plant resources and animal products are not yet well documented. This may very well contribute to limitations in deriving maximum benefits from our biological richness. The new Chief Directorate I have mentioned will be driving this responsibility.  

The Biodiversity sector is evolving and anticipates a new development paradigm, which can be summarized as “Conservation is Good for Business, and Business is Good for Conservation. Government, however, faces trade-offs daily. Effective conservation cannot and will not be driven just by conservation for conservation’s sake. We have to ensure that our wealth of natural resources is managed and used in such a way that it benefits all our people, now and for years to come.

Mainstreaming sustainability as we build our Green Economy is no longer a “nice to have” but a “must have”, if we are to remain internationally competitive and in order to ensure there is still healthy biodiversity in South Africa..

Government increasingly recognizes that maintaining and eventually accounting for our natural capital comes down to a question of social and economic development. There may not be simple wins all the time; but there are approaches that come close enough. Biodiversity resources are a renewable source when it is utilised within its capacity. Biodiversity can therefore be one of the cornerstones of sustainable development … it is renewable economy!

Sustainable use is therefore critical for our development, especially for developing and like-minded mega-diverse countries. These issues are critical for South Africa if we are to reduce the direct pressure on Biodiversity, and profile biodiversity as the cornerstone of sustainable development, especially through sustainable use.

The department has started demonstrating the biodiversity economy in the Bushbuckridge area using the natural assets found in that region. It has been proven that our natural assets contribute to sustainable growth and poverty reduction and therefore should reflect the priorities of the poor. We all know that Bushbuckridge municipality is one of the poorest and has been earmarked for prioritisation by government. A total of R70 million has been put aside to kick start implementation of this biodiversity economy project in Bushbuckridge. With this Bushbuckridge project, we want to have “A vibrant local economy based on sustainably managing our natural assets in ways that involve and empower people and communities”.

I am pleased to note that the industry has itself identified transformation and empowerment as areas that require attention and dedicated resources and support.

More and more, we are seeing Game Farm managers and other successful business owners in the sector, who are willing to form Black Economic Empowerment partnerships with the previously disadvantaged, and embark on training community members as professional trackers, guides, chefs, tanners and taxidermists. We encourage these empowerment projects as significant steps towards fast-tracked transformation within the biodiversity economy, both in the wildlife and bioprospecting industries. We are seeing business and land-owners working with communities to harvest aloe sap in a sustainable manner and preparing the sap and other resources for commercial use, such as the case in the Tyefu community in the Eastern Cape.

The Tyhefu community under the Tyhefu Traditional Council in the Peddie area of the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, harvest sap from Aloe ferox plants from an area of approximately 50 000 hectares. The Aloe ferox harvesting project involves predominantly women and youth from the community. The contribution of utilisation of Aloe ferox to the livelihoods of the community of Tyhefu extends far beyond the people who are actively involved in the aloe harvesting. The project has been critical in sustaining local livelihoods for a rural community which had lived in a high unemployment area. This is an important community development project with significant potential.

There has been a marked increase in income levels to a point where people have adequate food, have moved out of extreme poverty, and are able to pay for a minimum basket of non-food items, including clothes, housing, and school fees for children.

Are Mr Roy Gowar, Ms Elke Goehrlich, Mr Andile Mjoli and other members of the Tyefu community with us here today? Please let us give them a round of applause. We also recognise the initiative proposed by Mr Jaques Malan to embark on a BEE Partnership with new entrants in the wildlife industry as part of transformation of the sector, stand up Mr Malan, we thank you for being part of the future of this economy.

There is still more that can be done to grow this exciting sector, and there are more good news stories waiting out there for us to share.

In a recent market survey conducted by DEA it was found that at least 549 products contain extracts of indigenous plants. However, these products utilized extracts / components of only 24 plant species (of the reported 23 000+ indigenous plant species in South Africa). It was further found that the natural ingredients sector in South Africa is still relatively underdeveloped in comparison to international trends. The bioprospecting industry growth trend over the past 5 years is difficult to assess due to the effects of the 2009 global economic crisis.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In line with the Department of Environmental Affairs’ Constitutional mandate, we must ensure that the benefits derived from the multi-billion rand industries in the biodiversity economy are equitably distributed.

In addressing the challenge of transformation, the department has initiated a process to assess the current situation with regards to transformation of the industry. This information will ultimately be used to develop a Transformation Charter for the Biodiversity Sector, which will include relevant sub-sectors such as the game farming and hunting sectors as well as the bioprospecting and biotrade sectors. This will be done in consultation with all relevant stakeholders, because an industry-led transformation approach spells sustainability.

We want to support sustainable development and we want collaboration and partnership with all stakeholders for mutual benefit. We have indeed reached a momentous stage in our country’s development.

Sectors originally perceived to have competing mandates, such as

  • Hunting vs Non-consumptive utilisation;
  • Commercial scale cultivation of indigenous plants vs Preservation of their natural habitats

have realised the common vision of growth and prosperity for our country.

We are beginning to walk this path towards sustainable use and equitable distribution of benefits together for a renewable economy.

I thank you, Ke a leboga, Baie Dankie