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Economic potential and valorization opportunities of genetic resources under the Nagoya Protocol in Africa

This document is one of the outputs of an Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) project involving six African countries that was co-funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF 4), implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and executed by the multi-donor ABS Capacity Development Initiative coordinated by GIZ.

The focus here is on identifying opportunities to valorize the economic potential of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge in the six participating countries, with a view to identifying universal lessons that could also be applied in other places. Although this research was started before the entry into force of the Nagoya Protocol and the subsequent development or updating of related national ABS systems and ABS compliance regimes, the ever-increasing application of ABS rules to biodiversity valorisation makes its findings particularly timely and pertinent. Against this background the ABS Capacity Development Initiative makes this “working document” available to a broader public.

The report consists of four components:

  1. Review patent activities involving genetic resources and traditional knowledge from six selected African countries;
  2. Analyse the valorisation potential of genetic resources in the countries;
  3. Provide an insight into ABS relevant industrial sectors, their R&D needs, requirements and opportunities; and
  4. Suggest conclusions and recommendations in a synthesis. 

Studies on the countries’ biodiversity in the global patent systems (“Patent Studies”)

These studies identified potential economic development opportunities by looking at species from Initiates file downloadCameroon, Kenya (Initiates file downloadpart 1 & Initiates file downloadpart 2), Madagascar (Initiates file downloadpart 1 & Initiates file downloadpart 2), Initiates file downloadMozambique, Initiates file downloadSenegal and South Africa (Initiates file downloadpart 1 & Initiates file downloadpart 2 & Initiates file downloadpart 3) mentioned in patents. Patent documents are proxy indicators of the valorization potential of genetic resources and related traditional knowledge, but not proof of profitable commercialization.

Valorization Potential Assessments

These assessments build on the work carried out in the patent studies, further exploring:

  1. The national ABS framework;
  2. The national actors involved in R&D activities related to the utilisation of genetic resources; and
  3. The link between patent documents, value chains and markets in order to determine the actual economic potential of the species and their related genetic resources.

Based on the results, specific strengths and weaknesses of national ABS relevant frameworks, actor landscapes and market conditions can be identified for the respective countries, allowing recommendations for the improvement of the valorisation of genetic resources. 

Sectoral Analysis of R&D needs, requirements, and opportunities in four user sectors 

This part of the report contains an analysis of industrial sectors considered the most important users of genetic resources: Pharmaceuticals, Cosmetics, Functional Food and Biotechnology. Valorisation opportunities and challenges are identified and combined with information about markets sizes as well as R&D dynamics and intensity to approximate the economic potential of genetic resources. 

The analysis answers a number of questions for each sector that are relevant to potential national actors in adding value to their R&D on genetic resources:

What are the key drivers of R&D? What are the typical R&D processes in which genetic resources are utilised? What are the users’ needs and requirements in using genetic resources and working with R&D partners in the providing countries? What are the positive features and barriers in ABS agreements for the valorisation of genetic resources

Synthesis: “Economic potential and valorization opportunities for genetic resources in six African countries” 

The synthesis presents conclusions and recommendations on how national ABS frameworks can contribute to the valorisation of genetic resources, including which kinds of business and regulatory environment and support are necessary to facilitate this process. Many of the recommendations are relevant beyond the countries and sectors involved and could potentially be used globally. 

This report does not purport to be exhaustive but has identified crucial issues to be researched and analysed further.


Julien Chupin - lead researcher and author 

Andreas Drews and Suhel al-Janabi - overall supervision

Valerie Normand - co-author of country reports 

Paul Oldham, Colin Barnes and Stephen Hall - authors of the patent analyses 

Pierre du Plessis and Geoff Burton - review of sectors overview and synthesis