Developing Biomaterials Industry in South Africa

On 26th August 2020, Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE) hosted a side event in collaboration with the digital Bio Africa Convention 2020. The title of the side event was “Developing Biomaterials Industry in South Africa”.

The side event was aimed at launching and validating two recently completed PAGE products commissioned by UNIDO. The side event was attended by policymakers, research institutes, business representatives, international organizations, and NGOs and focused on sharing and discussing challenges and opportunities in growing the biomaterial industry in South Africa and aboard. The high-level event was opened by Dr. Jenitha Badul, Chair of the PAGE National Steering Committee in South Africa.

The launch forms part of PAGE work in South Africa to identify potential and enabling factors for selected green economy sectors and/or industrial segments, with the intent of promoting sector reform. In 2016-2017, the PAGE undertook a Green Economy Industry and Trade Analysis (GEITA) in South Africa. The study offered a comprehensive analysis of South Africa's green industry and trade position with identified five priority sectors offering high potential for green trade promotion.

Biomaterials were ultimately identified as a promising green trade and industrial opportunity for the country. Biomaterials offer the chance to position the country within a rapidly developing technological space that offers the potential to create new markets for agricultural and waste by-products by generating new employment dimensions, close competitiveness gaps in the local plastics market, and move large-scale manufacturing industries like packaging away from their reliance on petrochemicals.

Based on this preliminary research, an Action Plan and Implementation Strategy for biomaterials were developed in 2017-2018 by UNIDO under PAGE. The analysis focused on understanding what would be required to develop and how to support the local industry. It investigated avenues to address three core problems associated with the development of biomaterials in South Africa, the availability of feedstock, the commercialization of emerging technologies, and the industry's competitiveness.

The side event also provided a platform to analyze the demand-side dynamics of the biomaterial industry in the country and identify the existing or potential markets as well as associated marketing strategies, which are critical to driving the growth of biomaterials in South Africa and effectively achieve the transition to a green economy.