Over 100 proposals pitched to investors at Biodiversity Economy and Investment Indaba

Investors were spoilt for choice as over 100 proposals were pitched to them at the inaugural Biodiversity Economy and Investment Indaba taking place at the Birchwood Hotel, in Boksburg, Gauteng, from March 25 to 27.

Attendees were welcomed by Mbali Hlophe, Gauteng MEC for Social Development, Agriculture and Rural Development.

Hlophe felt honoured to welcome everyone to the vibrant province she called a melting pot of all cultures and various individuals from different walks of life.

She thanked minister Barbara Creecy for choosing Gauteng as a host of such an important event.

“Many may be surprised why Gauteng, a province so densely populated, as a high pollution and waste footprint was very much of a mess for nature conservation. But it was incisive for this reason why biodiversity engagements should be located here, where the conservation of our natural resources is important not just to protect the environment, but for the well-being and health of humanity and various species alike,” she said.

Hlophe looked forward to the nations that will come out of these sessions “as government meets together with NGOs, business and interested parties who will be unpacking on this episode of the session, detailing the social, economic importance and importantly, the investment opportunities it presents”.

Delivering her keynote address, the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy, who led the inaugural Biodiversity Economy and Investment Indaba.

She said that last April, they resolved to convene a joint indaba about diversity conservation and sustainable use so that they could bring together all our role players in the sector under one roof so that they can discuss matters of common interest and broaden their participation and influence in the biodiversity sector.

She was thankful that over 1000 people registered to attend the event.

“We have been working hard as the sixth administration to provide policy certainty and a strong policy base for biodiversity conservation, sustainable use and an equitable growth in the biodiversity economy.”

She said the white paper provides a vision of an inclusive transformed society living in harmony with nature where biodiversity conservation and sustainable use ensure healthy ecosystems with impoved benefits that are fairly and equitably shared for the present and future generation.

“The revised National Biodiversity Economy Strategy is guided by both the Global Biodiversity Framework and our own White Paper, and is intended to provide strong direction for the growth and transformation of the biodiversity-based economy in South Africa,” said the minister.

She added that the new National Biodiversity Economy Strategy is ambitious in that while it builds on previous strategies it is more comprehensive and both broadens the existing terrestrial goals and adds marine, coastal, estuarine and freshwater opportunities.

The revised strategy is currently out for public comment, and the minister encouraged everyone to engage with the document and propose improvements.

The revised strategy emphasises that a successful biodiversity economy must be linked to ecosystem restoration, as well as recognising the importance of ecological infrastructure.

Creecy said balancing use of the benefits, services and values of biodiversity while sustaining these elements, will ensure that both nature and people thrive in a sustainable way.

“Growing the Biodiversity Economy, especially through leveraging the opportunities from ecotourism, which was missing from the previous strategy, requires expansion and management of biodiversity and of the conservation estate, and strong partnerships among stakeholders, to increase sustainable use opportunities,” she said.

The minister continued to say it cannot be business as usual.

“In the South African context, we have identified that the Biodiversity Sector as a whole urgently requires transformation. This transformation must ensure the meaningful and equitable inclusion of rural communities and previously disadvantaged individuals into the Biodiversity Economy, and biodiversity conservation and sustainable use in general,” she said.

Creecy said such inclusion is critical for sustainable rural socio-economic development to address the triple burden of poverty, inequality and unemployment. This requires new approaches such, as amongst others, investment into community owned land for conservation compatible land-use with biodiversity-based enterprises, more inclusive processes, opening up of value chains, and ensuring equitable and inclusive access and benefit flows.

She listed strong examples of successful land restitution projects which provide a beacon of hope for land restitution in conservancies, such as the Tshivhula CPA, the Makuleke in the Limpopo section of the Kruger National Park and Babanango in KwaZulu Natal Province.

The minister said Isimangaliso Wetland Park Authority has evolved innovative partnerships that will combine private sector investment in accommodation facilities with community partnerships that offer tours, boat rides, laundry services, and other hospitality offerings.

She noted that such opportunities within the biodiversity sector can be further substantially developed, and in particular associated with protected areas, game reserves, and game ranches, to create benefit flows for surrounding communities by opening avenues for business ventures to participate in supplying services to the establishments.

“Key enablers within the White Paper are being implemented, for example we have initiated review of legislative, regulatory and policy instruments, initiatives for improved capacity, innovation and technological support.

“A key challenge for the biodiversity sector is the financial support required to sustain conservation and grow the Biodiversity Economy as well as ensuring market access for services and products from previously disadvantaged individuals and communities.

“This brings us to the purpose of this Biodiversity Indaba. The vision of the White Paper, and the ambition of the National Biodiversity Economy Strategy can never be achieved without the private sector and rural communities,” she said.

The minister revealed that over 100 proposals were to be pitched to investors on March 24.

“This is a key function of this Indaba, to make connections for win-win outcomes. I am hoping that many of these projects will be picked up and come to fruition. I can assure you that the government will support and facilitate their success,” she said.

Creecy was very pleased that the DFFE has established a Biodiversity Economy Investment Portal, which will be an ongoing conduit of opportunities for investment.

“Following capacitation of the SMME entrepreneurs, the 12 projects currently on the portal have been through a rigorous process of development, supported by the Department of Small Business Development and SETAs.

“Interest from previously disadvantaged individuals and community SMMEs is strong, with over 150 having come forward and been trained and capacitated to develop business cases, and we anticipate a stream of opportunities to be uploaded on the portal over time,” said the minister.

About four commissions will on Tuesday, March 25, discuss how the four goals of National Biodiversity Economy Strategy can be achieved, and in doing so, these commissions will develop a clear contribution of the biodiversity sector to reducing poverty, inequality and unemployment.

“I am certain that further attractive opportunities for partnering and investing in success will emerge, and be identified for business case development.

“We can no longer afford to have fragmented, isolated approaches that are not inclusive and integrated. We need economic scaling – to think big picture I am convinced that if we work collectively to achieve the goals and objectives of the revised National Biodiversity Economy Strategy, we will find that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, to the benefit of all, while promoting and enhancing the wellbeing of animals and nature more broadly. A new deal, with thriving people and nature.

I encourage all to participate and contribute during the Indaba, and on a continuous basis over time,” she concluded.

Thoko Didiza, Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, spoke about creating a sustainable market for wildlife products as they can substitute some of the staple food that are important in the country.

She said consumer educational campaigns in this area becomes important as a powerful tool that can help in some of our industries so that we build a profitable and sustainable market.

Didiza said to manage or decrease the poaching of kudus and rhinos government should make sure to create a sustainable market for bush meat.

That, she said, will require the education of consumers while at the same time ensuring the protection of those assets for economic as well as food security purposes.

She said the promotion and protection of biodiversity should be done by involving communities.

“Encouraging communities to be involved in the protection of wild life and poaching is crucial in creating jobs for communities while preserving nature,” she said.

The President of the Republic of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to address the Indaba on March 26.

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