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President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses launch of Biodiversity Economy Operation Phakisa

25 August 2018, Kalahari Waterfront, Thohoyandou, Limpopo Province

Programme Director,
Premier of Limpopo, Mr Chupu Stanley Mathabatha,
Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa,
Minister of Tourism, Mr Derek Hanekom,
Minister of Small Business Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu,
Deputy Ministers and MECs
Mayor of the Vhembe District Municipality, Florence Radzilani,
King Toni Mphephu Ramabulana,
Chief Livhuwani Matsila,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be with you today as we embark on the purposeful development of our biodiversity economy.

In the Constitution of our country, we recognise and celebrate the diversity of our people.

This human diversity is reflected – and multiplied many times over – in the diversity of our country’s plant and animal life.

In the area bounded by the Indian and Atlantic oceans, by the Limpopo and Orange rivers, lives a multitude of species that makes South Africa the third most biodiverse country in the world.

For millennia, this bountiful natural heritage has sustained our people.

It has fed them, healed them, sheltered them and provided the means and the inspiration for cultural expression.

Now, we again seek to harness this biodiversity to enable our people to prosper and to flourish.

We seek to harness our ancient inheritance and indigenous knowledge to open up new opportunities for commerce, trade and entrepreneurship.

We know that this inheritance is precious and fragile, and, therefore, as we develop the economic potential of our natural resources, we are bound to ensure that we do so sustainably.

It is not far from here that the ancient kingdom of Mapungubwe grew and thrived many centuries ago.

Historians tell us that Mapungubwe developed into the largest kingdom in the sub-continent with a vibrant economy before it was abandoned in the 14th century.

It is suggested that its demise was brought about by changes to the climate that affected both the people and plants.

When rainfall decreased, the land could no longer sustain a large population using traditional farming methods, and the inhabitants had to disperse.

This is a lesson for us and for future generations that humanity’s survival depends on the sustainable use of natural resources and protection of the environment.

The destruction of our biodiversity – the loss of plant and animal species – has grave implications for our own survival and well-being.

It affects livelihoods, health, and food and water security.

However, on the other hand, sustainable maintenance of biodiversity can contribute to our efforts to eradicate poverty and create economic opportunities for our people. 

Biodiversity needs to feature in all areas of economic development, across areas such as agriculture, fisheries, forestry, mining, energy, tourism and transport.

The opportunities in the biodiversity economy that the Operation Phakisa initiative identified hold great potential to reshape our rural economy and lift many 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.

Drawing on traditional knowledge about the use of indigenous plants, there is great scope for the country’s scientists and researchers to develop products that can be manufactured in rural areas and sold across the world.

All this needs to take place alongside programmes to ensure there is no exploitation of communities or the natural resources that are so necessary for their sustenance.

In addition to the use of plants to produce cosmetics and pharmaceutical products, the biodiversity economy also involves the development of the wildlife economy through game farming, hunting, hospitality and the supply of game meat.

An additional component is eco-tourism, an area of economic development that holds vast potential.

The biodiversity economy provides an opportunity to address the exclusion of the majority of South African from such sectors of the economy.

It is a way of ensuring that the custodians of our genetic resources and the holders of our traditional knowledge are able to fully benefit from the tangible and intagible heritage they possess.

The National Biodiversity Economy Strategy, which is being considered by Cabinet, provides the guiding framework through which we will coordinate government, private sector and development partners for the inclusive growth of the sector.

This strategy sets out the measures required to develop the wildlife, biotrade and ecotourism sectors, some of which are already being implemented through the Operation Phakisa framework.

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.

The biotrade sector has demonstrated a huge potential in promoting local economic growth.

The global demand for natural ingredients and products made from natural ingredients has been influenced by the shift towards products that have minimal impact on the environment and on people’s health.

The wildlife sector of South Africa has experienced noticeable growth over the years and employs around 100,000 people across the value chain.

This sector has been growing consistently faster than the general economy, contributing R3 billion to GDP in 2014, which is almost double the contribution it made in 2008.

Over the next 5 years, government will spend around R1.18 billion on supplying 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.

This support will be complimented by comprehensive rural development, industrialisation, advancement of South Africa’s regional and global integration, and the promotion of exports.

But none of this can happen without our communities.

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 socioeconomic development and tourism.

To address the injustices of the past, the People and Parks Programme was established as a joint government-community initiative to ensure that local communities play a pivotal role in the governance of protected areas in the country.

Equally important, is the involvement of young people in these initiatives.

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.

I hope that both events today – the Biodiversity Economy Open Day and the People and Parks Conference – will encourage young people to get involved, be innovative and be part of our country’s development.

Since time immemorial, this land has been blessed with a wondrous abundance of plants and animals.

It is our responsibility to treasure and preserve this great natural abundance and to fully realise its potential to provide a better life for all our people.

I thank you.


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