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Practitioners and experts gather to discuss Africa’s bio-economic potential | 09 July 2019

Around 60 participants representing a wide array of development practitioners and experts, notably state actors, researchers and academia, the private sector, local communities, civil society and the media are participating in the second Pan African Community of Practice on Africa’s bio-economic potential.

The participants namely from Algeria, Botswana, Comoros, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco, Rwanda, Sudan and Seychelles, are at the four-day gathering to explore ways to add value to Africa’s bio-genetic resources.

They will be disseminating innovative thinking, success stories and best practices emanating from valorisation cases relating to value addition to biological and genetic resources conducted on different pilots in various African countries.

The aim of the workshop, being held at the Savoy Resort and Spa, Beau Vallon, is to develop sound valorisation strategies to foster bio-discovery partnerships, attract ABS investments along the bottom-up ABS value chain so as to yield broader development dividends in contribution in line with the national development priorities and contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs).

The workshop, titled ‘Doing Sustainable Business in Africa: Tools and innovation for the valorisation of genetic resources to unlock the potential of Africa’s bio-economy and accelerate the achievement of the sustainable development goal’, was officially opened yesterday morning by the Minister for Environment, Energy and Climate Change, Wallace Cosgrow.

Apart from the participants, presents were the principal secretary for Environment, Alain De Commarmond; the Russian ambassador to Seychelles, Vladimir Belous; the Indian high commissioner to Seychelles, General Dalbir Singh Suhag; the UNDP-GEF Global ABS Project, Alejandro Lago; the regional technical advisor for ABS-Africa, Fouad Bergigui and the programme manager UNDP-Seychelles, Roland Alcindor among other invitees.

Addressing the gathering, Minister Cosgrow said that Africa will need US $1.3 billion per year to achieve the SDGs which shows that substantial investments are required thus the demand cannot be met by public investment alone. It will require financial flows from the private financing as well.

Minister Cosgrow noted that one solution to address this financing gap is by looking into home-grown solutions which lies in abundance in Africa’s rich natural resources (from the Blue economy to wild life) to engineer innovative financing.

“Our efforts to valorise our genetic resources in Africa, intend to lay out pragmatic foundations in our countries to translate the potential of our biological and genetic resources into partnership, business opportunities and broader development dividends in contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals,” Minister Cosgrow said, noting that Africa’s bio-economies can have a transformative impact on the countries’ development.

Minister Cosgrow also raised some food for thought relating to questions for the best business models for Africa’s bio-economies, based on biological and genetic resources thus contributing to closing the financial gap need for the SDGs.

From a strategic point of view the question is what are the best strategies to valorise our biological and genetic resources to create jobs, to drive innovation and boost our scientific and technological capabilities, to foster social prosperity, to drive sustainable economic growth and biodiversity conservation financing.

From an operational point of view, how do we make the most of our biological and genetic resources and get the best return on investments, among others.

The special advisor to the minister, Denis Matatiken, later explained as example that a lot of people here in Seychelles are exploiting species and plants from land and sea for extraction of traditional medicines, essential oils, fabrication of cosmetics and others and are mostly manufactured and sold locally. But the possibility exist for their ideas and innovations be developed further and be commercialised on a larger scale overseas with financing assistance from local or foreign investors through access and benefit sharing guidelines or policies.

The workshop, which will end on Friday, falls under the auspices of the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through the UNDP-GEF Global ABS (Access and Benefit-Sharing) project ‘Strengthening human resources, legal frameworks, and institutional capacities to implement the Nagaya Protocol’. The Nagoya protocol is an international treaty under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

Mr Alcindor said it is critical to get the right partnership to attract ABS investments for biological and genetic financing as most African countries exit the legal tunnels of setting up their ABS instruments and domestic measures through shifting more towards engineering. ABS partnership by investing in capacity building. He noted that the UNDP-GEF ABS portfolio accounts for about 45 projects in 40 countries globally, where UNDP provides direct support for the implementation of the Nagoya protocol.

“The UNDP-GEF project intends to lay out the foundations to foster mutually beneficial bio-discovery partnerships that will trigger economic growth, conserve biodiversity and ensure its sustainable use, while yielding significant development co-benefits including for local communities,” Mr Alcindor said.

The workshop follows the first Pan African Community of Practice Series, for the laying of the platform, that was held in Kigali, Rwanda in August 2018.

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