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Exports of natural ingredients benefits local communities in South Africa

European buyers and consumers are on the look-out for exciting new products and ingredients, looking at traditional use of plants or local biodiversity. With its unique local biodiversity, South Africa is a great source of inspiration. Think about marula oil, traditionally used by Tsonga women, or products from the baobab tree, the ‘Tree of Life’.

Bringing new ingredients with inspiring stories to the market can bring strong benefits to South Africa. Suppliers marketing these ingredients in Europe are not the only ones to profit from market access. Benefits are channelled through the chain, impacting the livelihoods of processing plant workers and communities supplying raw materials (often from remote rural areas with few other income generating opportunities).

“ProFound helped me understand what natural ingredients companies need in order to do business and how this relates to access and benefit sharing. I can use this in my work to create a better business enabling environment. ProFound has connected me to the right stakeholders in the sector to do so.”

– Preshantie Naicker-Manick (Department of Environmental Affairs South Africa)

Negotiating access to community knowledge

Unfortunately, there are still very few South African products on the market. In part, this is because it is difficult to bring a new natural ingredient to the international market that is based on traditional knowledge or natural resources. The Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS), signed by both South Africa and the European Union, helps to overcome such barriers. It mandates that companies aiming to market products based on traditional knowledge must negotiate with the community which developed this knowledge. Benefits stemming from this knowledge must also be shared with the community.

In potential, ABS means additional income for communities. In practice, its implementation in South Africa makes it difficult for local entrepreneurs to comply and bring their products to the market. In turn, this creates a hurdle for communities to get any benefits from sales of the product.

“There has never been a more challenging time to take a natural product to market. I believe that ABS is the future of ‘fair trade’ and that ‘fair trade certifications’ will become irrelevant as ABS gains understanding and momentum around the world. ProFound has offered me a platform to share my experiences with becoming ABS compliant. My experiences can help other stakeholders to develop policies which enable entrepreneurs to do business. And it is these businesses that we need to offer a better future to rural communities in South Africa.”

– Sarah Venter (Founder of Ecoproducts)

All on-board to enable natural ingredients business

Within the scope of CBI’s natural ingredients programme in South Africa, ProFound works with a wide range of ministries, companies, business associations and universities in South Africa to develop an export strategy for natural ingredients. The purpose of this strategy is create an enabling environment for companies to do business and start exporting.

The implementation of the Nagoya Protocol in South Africa is a key issue to be tackled in this strategy. This requires improved coordination between companies and relevant ministries to simplify implementation mechanisms and provide simple tools and resources to help the private sector in South Africa and Europe to understand and comply.

This will make it easier for local companies to develop and market products based on traditional use and bring them to the market – with the associated benefits for rural communities.

“On our request, ProFound identified and activated relevant stakeholders in the natural ingredients sector in South Africa: ministries of trade and industry, environment, science and technology, and private sector stakeholders such as companies and associations. ProFound’s experience and capabilities in bringing them together through strategic conferences resulted in a common understanding of what the sector needs to export to Europe and develop a vision on how to get there.“

– Dirk-Jan Zegelaar (CBI Programme Manager South Africa)

Our activities to develop a strategy for the natural ingredients sector in South Africa fall under our business planning solutions:

  • Identification of relevant stakeholders, including companies, industry associations, ministries and government agencies, service providers, financial institutions and universities.
  • Organising sector conferences in South Africa to bring together stakeholders to identify and prioritise issues and develop solutions.
  • Developing a joint strategy with stakeholders for the natural ingredient sector in South Africa, with key actions, responsibilities and timeline.

The iconic South African baobab tree