DFFE Director-General, Ms Nomfundo Tshabalala, addresses the biodiversity sector investment portal launch event

23 September 2022

 

Programme Director, Mr. Khorommbi Matibe,
Mr Shonisani Munzhedzi, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI)
Ms Flora Mokgohloa, Deputy Director-General: Biodiversity and Conservation, DFFE
Mr Gabriel Dava, Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) South Africa Country Office
Mr Alex McNamara, Head of Operations at NBI
Representatives of business, the department and SANBI

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning

It is an honour for me to welcome you to the launch of the Biodiversity Sector Investment Portal championed by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment and supported by our partners, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN).

The portal promotes investment opportunities in the biodiversity sector and encourages the development of connections between communities and investor ready and bankable intermediaries. These connections will ensure that the biodiversity sector is able to contribute to the growth of the economy, and the well-being of society while conserving our country’s rich biodiversity.

South Africa’s biodiversity is not only a national asset but is also a source of economic prosperity through the sustainable use of a wide variety of plants, and our wildlife.  For this reason, our natural environment needs to be taken care of.

South Africa’s approach to managing conservation and biodiversity has always been characterised by the principle of sustainable use – a right that is also entrenched in our Constitution. This is of such importance that the High-Level Panel of Experts that reviewed our existing policies, legislation and practices on matters of elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros management, breeding, hunting, trade and handling, made two important findings related to our biodiversity.

The first was that despite having a range of biodiversity and sustainable use legislation and policies, biodiversity loss continues to threaten the health of ecosystems and survival of species, and results in negative impacts for livelihoods and the economy. Global change, habitat loss and degradation, invasive alien species, overharvesting, and illegal harvesting all threaten South Africa’s biodiversity.

Secondly, South Africa’s biodiversity sector remains substantially untransformed and there is inequality in access to benefits arising from biodiversity and associated ecosystem services. It is also a sector that has not reached its potential in terms of the contribution to the economy and growth domestic product (GDP). Biodiversity and its use is a catalytic engine of rural economies, and the value chains that emerge from these, need to be fully realised.

Ladies and gentlemen,

There is a growing understanding by government and business that the economic and social development of the country depends on healthy ecosystems and biodiversity.

By encouraging investment into businesses that fall within the broader biodiversity economy we can promote much-needed economic and social development and secure our country’s critical natural capital.

Transformation of the biodiversity sector is key to creating an inclusive approach in which all levels of society and all key stakeholders can assist in addressing the triple challenges of inequality, poverty and joblessness. This can be achieved through greater investment in a largely under-developed sector.

Supporting the entry to the wildlife sector by previously disadvantaged communities and individuals, and interventions such as the draft Game Meat Strategy for South Africa, which is aimed at formalising this sector, we will be able to focus on growth and transformation through investment.

Financial support of the game meat sector will, for example, open local, regional and international market opportunities. Thus, the need for transformation of the industry. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

There is a massive financial gap when it comes to funding in the biodiversity sector. This gap is both global and local. Some estimates put the global biodiversity funding gap at USD 598 to 824 billion per year by 2030. The United Nations Environment Programme's State of Finance for Nature identifies a USD 4.1 trillion financing gap in nature by 2050. Locally, South Africa’s national biodiversity funding requirements, are estimated at no less than USD100 million per annum.

With this in mind, South Africa’s national government, through our department, has committed to drive strategic goals, actions and processes through the national biodiversity economy strategy to support the growth of a sector that forms an important part of the National Development Plan’s Vision 2030.

The department, in partnership with SANBI, the UNDP and BIOFIN is spearheading awareness of opportunities that exist within the biodiversity economy.

A prime example is the portal we are launching today.

It matches the biodiversity sector business to business (B2B) model by presenting a funnel of well-vetted, bankable sector opportunities to the potential investors in the country’s thriving wildlife, bioprospecting and tourism economies. Opportunities in these sectors are growing presenting an ideal opportunity not only for investment in projects that will benefit our communities, but also address unemployment and inequality while contributing to economic growth.

Ladies and gentlemen

For the biodiversity economy to be successful, it requires partnerships. Thus, the collaborating by the department with BIOFIN to help support funding requirements and needs within this sector.

We have long heard that the private sector and civil society are looking to invest and collaborate in good biodiversity related programmes that have strong environmental and social impact potential. In the case of the portal and the programme supporting it, Government serves as an intermediary to support such programmes.

The biodiversity investment portal also supports the transformation of this important sector by offering a platform where the voices of rural communities can be heard, and where the work they do takes centre stage. This is important especially because the majority of SMMEs in the biodiversity sector are located in rural areas where economic opportunities are limited. This portal will serve as a means to create socio-economic development in some of the most remote and often overlooked areas of the country.

In our discussions with the financing community, a point often raised is the shortage of bankable, vetted opportunities in the biodiversity sector. The portal solves this problem by presenting opportunities that would not normally get this kind of attention.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As I conclude, I would like to thank SANBI which, through their Land Reform and Biodiversity Stewardship Programme, has supported the DFFE in the selection of stewardship sites to work with during the pilot and launch phase of the portal.

I would also like to thank the communities and SMMEs that are here today. Your interest in this portal and your presence at this launch is a recognition of the importance of collaboration in ensuring that communities become involved in commercialisation processes with the support of investment, and the partnerships formed through these opportunities.

The many stakeholders from the finance and business community, both in person and online, also need to be acknowledged. You play a key role in developing and collaborating with the sector and ensuring that the needed market and commercialisation processes can succeed.

A special thank you goes to the UNDP, which has supported the implementation and development of the investment platform as it stands today. We have been working closely on the development of this investment portal, which today serves the purpose of showcasing opportunities and critical information required to attract investment in the biodiversity sector.

The department is working to take over the institutional and programmatic ownership of the investment portal that we have developed in partnership with the UNDP, and we are currently integrating the longer-term needs of the portal into our IT strategy. We intend to build on this first implementation of the portal and to learn what is needed in order to make the portal more efficient, fit-for-purpose and more reflective of the demands of the sector.

As we pledge our continued support to the biodiversity economy of South Africa, we should remember that we are all responsible for building a solid foundation in conserving biodiversity and ensuring the stability of our natural resources. By doing this we guarantee the security of livelihoods in South Africa.

Thank you.