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Bioprospecting is defined as a...

systematic and organised search for useful products derived from bio resources including plants, micro-organisms, animals, etc., that can be developed further for commercialisation and overall benefits of the society. The South African Bioprospecting sub-sectors includes many organisations (these are businesses, national and provincial government departments, public entities, research organisations, academic organisations) and people (communities, individuals, investors).

They are all linked to the bioprospecting sub-sector by engaging in bioprospecting sub-sector related activities. These include collecting, harvesting and extracting living or dead indigenous species, or derivatives and genetic material thereof, for commercial or industrial purposes. The Bioprospecting sub-sector in South Africa has a formal, commercialised market and an informal market, dominated largely by traditional medicines. The formal, commercialised bioprospecting market, although fledgling, is growing rapidly.

The trend towards “natural” products demand is high and customers pay a price premium for goods with indigenous resources.

The Bioprospecting Value Chain

SOUTH AFRICA’S LIVING TREASURES RESEARCHED AND CONVERTED TO PRODUCTS. The bioprospecting commercial value chain key role players are from the resource harvesting to the end user

Bioprospecting Sector



Both wild harvesters and farmers supply the sector. The market is largely focused on plant resources.



Primarily trade in indigenous plant species of which 70% are exported as raw materials.

Operate in two categories

  • Trade of raw and semi-processed
  • Development and sale of
    intermediary products



Development and sale of final value added products.

The trend towards 'natural' products is high and
customers pay a price premium for goods with indigenous resources.

Biodiversity Investment and Commercial Potential

  • Industrial enzymes
  • Drugs and pharmaceuticals
  • Food flavourings
  • Fragrances
  • Cosmetics
  • Emulsifiers
  • Oleoresins
  • Extracts and essential oils which contain these indigenous species
  • The largest resource use in products was Aloe ferox (bitter Aloe) followed by, bee products, Aspalathus linearis (rooibos) and Pelargonium sidoides
  • The formal domestic retail market in South Africa in 2012/2013 had 549 products containing indigenous plant and bee products
  • The total revenue produced from value-added bioproducts in the domestic retail market was approximately R1, 5 billion in 2013
  • The majority of these products used Aloe ferox, Apis spp. (bee products), Aspalathus spp. (Rooibos) or Pelargonium sidoides as active indigenous ingredient
  • These local value-added products fell into five product categories:
  1. Personal hygiene products (R620 million or 40 % of products)
  2. Cosmetics (R590 million or 38 % of products)
  3. Complementary medicines (R170 million or 11 % of products)
  4. Food flavourings (R120 million or 8 % of products)
  5. Oils (R50 million or 3 % of product
The Biodiversity Economy Lab has identified these seven botanical species for management plans: