Developing the biodiversity economy can create 162 000 jobs - Ramaphosa
Around 162 000 jobs and R47bn can be generated through the development of the biodiversity economy, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Saturday.
Speaking at the launch of the Biodiversity Economy Operation Phakisa, Ramaphosa said that harnessing ancient inheritance and indigenous knowledge could open up new opportunities for commerce, trade and entrepreneurship.
Ramaphosa said that for millennia, the bountiful natural heritage sustained people in South Africa.
"It has fed them, healed them, sheltered them and provided the means and the inspiration for cultural expression," said the president at the Kalahari Waterfront in Thohoyandou, Limpopo.
"Now, we again seek to harness this biodiversity to enable our people to prosper and to flourish."
The president said that through the National Biodiversity Economy Strategy, which is being considered by Cabinet, a framework would be established to co-ordinate government, private sector and development partners for the inclusive growth of the sector.
"This strategy sets out the measures required to develop the wildlife, bio trade and ecotourism sectors, some of which are already being implemented through the Operation Phakisa framework.
"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."
He said this would include the bio trade sector, which 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."
Ramaphosa also said that 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 five 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."
'Destruction of our biodiversity'
He said government's support will be 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," Ramaphosa said.
"This support will be complemented by comprehensive rural development, industrialisation, advancement of South Africa’s regional and global integration, and the promotion of exports."
He said the opportunities in the biodiversity economy that the Operation Phakisa initiative identified hold great potential to reshape the rural economy and will 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."
Ramaphosa advised that the country's biodiversity is precious and fragile, therefore, the economic potential of South Africa's natural resources should be developed sustainably.
"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.
"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."
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