Rich biodiversity takes centre stage at East London summit

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EAST LONDON, March 8 – The third Biodiversity Economy Indaba kicked off at the East London International Conference Centre, in the Eastern Cape on Thursday, with a convergence of players from different parts of South Africa, and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, showcasing their products including cosmetics, herbal medicine and nature reserves.

In her keynote address, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said poverty-stricken communities could turn around their fortunes if they exploited their surrounds for economic purposes.

“South Africa, endowed by the richness in biological resources remains one of the attractions for herbal tea, essential oils, in cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries. The beneficiation of products containing Aloe, rooibos, honeybush, Pelargonium is mainly done in other countries through exports of raw materials and such at the expense of the many jobs that must be created here in our country. Our products containing indigenous biodiversity are competing in national and international markets with other biological resources that have similar properties,” said Molewa.

“I hereby submit that we’re dealing here with dynamics that require a clear understanding of the global political economy. We need collaborative efforts at various scales of the local, regional and international level to respond meaningfully to the challenges posed by market forces. We, therefore, need to intensify our investments in research and innovation in order to firm up our capabilities for value addition or benefit innovation from plants in the agro-processing sector and improving the quality of local products.”

Molewa said local communities based around nature reserves and parks should directly enjoy the economic benefits flowing from the facilities, making conservation a community initiative not limited to the government only.

“It is through the People and Parks Programme that the local communities are actively involved in conservation programmes that stimulate rural economies through infrastructure upgrades in protected areas, developing commercial assets for communities owning and/or living around protected areas; and supporting related industries,” she said.

“Our people are the first line of defence for the animals in protected areas and they have a critical role to play not just in protecting wildlife assets, but in advancing the growth of the wildlife economy.”

The Indaba in East London provides a rare platform for interface between various small, medium and micro enterprises, and potential investors in the biodiversity economy.

Molewa said the Indaba was part of the department’s contribution to the broader transformation agenda that underpins the resolve for a radical socio-economic transformation.

“I would like to acknowledge the growing co-operation between the environmental sector in the area of enterprise development through support from the department of small business development. It is through our partnerships that we can ensure a meaningful support to entrants in biodiversity economy activities,” said Molewa.

“I would not have done justice if I did not acknowledge the presence of our partners from the sub-region here represented by delegates from Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Botswana and Madagascar. We also have representatives from Europe and New Zealand.”

– African News Agency (ANA)