President Cyril Ramaphosa says opportunities in the biodiversity economy have the potential to unlock the country’s rural economy and lift rural people out of poverty.
“If properly developed, the biodiversity economy can assist in accelerating transformation by providing not only employment, but also business opportunities, for black South Africans. It is also an opportunity for innovation,” he said.
The President was speaking at a Biodiversity Economy Conference that took place in Thohoyandou, Limpopo on Saturday.
President Ramaphosa said by drawing on traditional knowledge about the use of indigenous plants, the country’s scientists and researchers could develop products that can be manufactured in rural areas and sold across the world.
Also at the event were Environmental Affairs Ministers Edna Molewa, Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and Small Business Development Minister, Lindiwe Zulu.
The conference was a collaborative effort amongst the departments to harness opportunities presented by biodiversity.
The scope of innovation products in the biodiversity economy include bioprospecting and bio-trade, products such as cosmetics and pharmaceutical; wildlife and ecotourism products.
Under the theme: “Innovating and Accelerating – with the people, for the people”, stakeholders brainstormed ideas that promote sustainable utilisation and conservation of the country’s biological resources.
Biodiversity, a tool for job creation
Through the development of the biodiversity economy, it is anticipated that 162 000 jobs can be created and R47 billion generated by 2030.
“We aim to increase business and land ownership by previously disadvantaged individuals, boosting participation by communities, expanding cultivation of key indigenous plants by 500 hectares a year, and having 100 Blue Flag beaches designated across South Africa by 2030,” said President Ramaphosa.
The National Biodiversity Economy Strategy, which is currently being considered by Cabinet, provides the guiding framework through which government, the private sector and development partners will coordinate for the inclusive growth of the sector.
President Ramaphosa said the strategy sets out the measures required to develop the wildlife, bio-trade and eco-tourism sectors, some of which are already being implemented through the Operation Phakisa framework.
Infrastructure boost paves way for biodiversity
Over the next 5 years, government plans to spend about R1.18 billion to supply the underlying infrastructure required to grow the biodiversity economy and ensure that it contributes meaningfully to the South African economy.
“Much of government’s support is centred on market development locally, regionally and internationally.
“This support includes a package of support incentives for emerging farmers and producers in the primary and secondary value chains,” the President said.
President Ramaphosa said communities were a central focus of biodiversity and should not be left behind.
“We cannot conserve South Africa’s natural resources without the involvement of the communities which benefit from these resources every day. Sustainable biodiversity conservation is inextricably linked with socio-economic development and tourism,” he said.
He urged the youth to get involved in these initiatives to ensure sustainable growth of the economy.
“Equally important, is the involvement of young people. Without the commitment of our youth to a sustainable economy and protection of the environment through the preservation of our cultural and natural heritage, our economy cannot grow.
“Our youth require skills that will ensure they are able to meaningfully contribute to the growth of their communities and our country,” he said.