PhytoTrade Africa held a multi-stakeholder dialogue on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) in Southern Africa last week, hosted by South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs, and supported by the ABS Capacity Development Initiative.

The objective of the meeting was to address ABS regulations across the region and develop best practice guidelines for bioprospecting and biotrade initiatives.

Key stakeholders from the public and private sectors participated in the meeting including government representatives from South Africa together with those from Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland, Mozambique and The Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Facilitated by Natural Justice, experts from the fields of biodiversity and trade in genetic and biological resources, and associated traditional knowledge, contributed to the dialogue by presenting case study value chains.

Industry was represented by several PhytoTrade Africa members working directly with biological resources and supplying regional and international markets. Chris Dohse from TreeCrops in Malawi commented that “trade in the region is a motor for economic growth, and well designed regulations are essential for sustainable commercialisation of natural products. The development of new and innovative products from Biodiversity contains benefits in various forms and can contribute to the welfare of many people in Africa.

New programmes to be developed by PhytoTrade Africa will provide an enabling environment for the food and beverage and cosmetics industry. PhytoTrade CEO Cyril Lombard said “being at the cutting edge of ABS issues in the region and globally means that we are faced by both challenges and opportunities. This dialogue has provided an invaluable opportunity for policy makers, regulators and the private sector to learn from each other, and that the key elements of ABS best practice are better understood. PhytoTrade Africa will continue to build on the concept of utilisation of genetic and biological diversity as building blocks for economic development in the region and bring innovative new materials to global industry.”