Africa’s plant species is a high-growth economic sector capable of creating skilled and unskilled jobs, stimulating technology development, protecting the environment and biodiversity, and generating valuable foreign exchange from exports.
According to representatives of more than 40 African meeting in Cape Town, South Africa recently, Africa’s biodiversity is in high demand internationally for their health, nutrition and cosmetic benefits.
“The challenge, however, is for Africa to ensure the harvest, processing and trade in unique plant ingredients produces fair benefits for indigenous people and local communities who have lived for generations on the land and hold traditional knowledge,” they said.
South Africa is one of the African countries which has made the most progress in enshrining benefit-sharing in its national legislative and regulatory framework. In 2013, it ratified the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits (ABS).
The 12th Pan-African Workshop on ABS included representatives of rural communities, traditional leaders, African governments, small SA businesses and global companies which use African plants in their recipes and products.
Workshop delegates got a first-hand view of sustainable biotrade in action when they toured two innovative businesses in the Western Cape.
Parceval (www.parceval.co.za<http://www.parceval.co.za>) grows more than 100 indigenous and exotic plant species near Wellington and processes them into cosmetic, nutrition and pharmaceutical ingredients and products for local and international customers.
Afriplex (www.afriplex.co.za<http://www.afriplex.co.za>) develops and manufactures botanical extracts, complementary medicines and food and beverage products from a large facility in Paarl. It has become a major local employer and a significant demonstration of biotrade’s economic potential.
Delegates also met South African and German professors who are researching the medicinal and economic benefits of several African plant species.
The ABS workshop was hosted by SA’s Department of Environment Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) (www.environment.gov.za<http://www.environment.gov.za>), a national competent authority for the It was arranged by the Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) Capacity Development Initiative (www.abs-initiative.info<http://www.abs-initiative.info>), a project implemented by the German overseas development agency Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH with other international partners.
“We are pleased to see all parties working together to develop a common understanding of how biotrade can develop in a fair and sustainable way, enabling business growth, job creation and the sharing of benefits for people in countries with rich natural resources and valuable biodiversity,” said Andreas Drews, ABS Initiative project manager.
German government support for the ABS Initiative is now in its 13th year. “We are pleased to be strengthening our collaboration with the SA government through our work with DEFF, and supporting the development of robust ABS-compliant biotrade value chains across Africa,” said Christian Grün, Head of Cooperation at the German Embassy in Pretoria.
The Swiss government supports the initiative through its State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). “Consumers internationally are seeking novel natural ingredients in their food, drinks, cosmetics and medicines,” said Franziska Spörri, head of SECO’s Economic Cooperation and Development in SA. “We are helping to ensure these ingredients are ethically-sourced and sustainably harvested, and that some of the benefits of the end products flow back down the value chain to communities.”