On June 30th, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) published a report, titled ‘The New Gold Rush: Bioprospecting,” which elucidates the benefits of bioprospecting for sustainable economic development for underdeveloped countries. Bioprospecting is the exploration of biodiversity for animal and plant substances for medicinal, biochemical, or other commercial purposes. One cause of the socio-economic disparity between rich and poor countries stems from colonial practices of environmental exploitation; larger countries pilfered the resources of smaller countries or current or former colonies to support the metropole’s industrialization and growth.
As underdeveloped countries aim to promote economic growth and political stability, the UNDP report encourages the sustainable extraction of plant and animal substances for pharmaceutical and biochemical purposes, specifically discussing bioprospecting’s potential in Cambodia due to its wealth of biodiversity. As the report articulates, as Cambodia transitions from a “subsistence agriculture-based economy to an agro-industrial economy, its biological resources are increasingly under threat.” Bioprospecting would thus harness traditional environmental knowledge alongside modern science and technology to promote sustainable development; in this way, the UNDP report attempts to revitalize the goals of the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
Policy and scientific recommendations on how to deal with the loss of biodiversity due to climate change gained traction with the IUCN’s (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) Commission on Environmental Law in the 1980s. Their efforts fed into the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Ad Hoc Working Group of Experts on Biological Diversity in November 1988, which advocated for a multilateral institution to establish norms and protection over biodiversity– ultimately leading to the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The CBD sought to reconcile the need to conserve biodiversity, but also recognize its utilization towards economic and societal development for underdeveloped nations. The CBD begot a Treaty that established three goals: the conservation of biological diversity; the sustainable use of its components; and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from its resources. 196 parties have ratified the treaty, including China, the U.K, Canada, and the E.U, but not the U.S due to its failure to pass the Senate. Its failure derived from three fears of U.S policy makers: that U.S biotech corporations would be required to share their intellectual property in genetic research with other countries; that the U.S would become financially responsible for other country’s conservation; and that the CBD would impose more environmental regulations on the U.S. Even after the Biden Administrations’ efforts to reimpose environmental policy slashed by Trump, similar concerns are thwarting their efforts to ratify the CBD.
These guidelines thus recognize the right of a country to benefit from the extraction of its resources and attempted to prevent biopiracy – a centuries old practice through which indigenous environmental knowledge was exploited and turned to profit. While not a new practice, biopiracy surged throughout the 20th century as modern biotech fields crystallized, often developing by drawing on indigenous knowledge of plants and animals and then patenting them. Furthermore, the Treaty stipulates that potential bioprospectors would need permission from the country’s government,and would require them to state the country of origin of the resource in the patent. The country’s government may also impose access fees or royalty payments for bioprospectors and obtain the research results. Supplementary protocols sprouted from the initial CBD Treaty, including the 2010 Nagoya Protocol, which helped promote the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources, and the 2000 Cartagena Protocol, which ensures the safe handling of living modified organisms (LMOs) resulting from biotechnology. Such guidelines attempt to reaffirm small countries’ sovereignty over their land and resources, promote sustainable utilization of plant and animal substances, and avoid the recurrence of environmental exploitation that has, among other factors, impeded development in the past.
The inhabitants of the mountainous upland regions of Cambodia have a rich knowledge base of natural resources and conservation. Their cultural norms and worldviews, as well as their livelihoods depend upon a symbiotic relationship with their environment. Climate change currently threatens more than 300 medicinal plants that are native to Cambodia and face extinction. One such plant is Tepongru (Cinnamomum cambodianum), a species of cinnamon that grows in the Cambodian mountains. The healers and herbalists of Khmer traditional medicine– or Kru Khemer, harvest the bark of Tepongru to cure indigestion, tuberculosis, and the regulation of menstruation. The bark also has high concentrations of cinnamaldehyde and eugenol, which biotechnology companies synthesize to use in both perfumes and essential oils, but also as an anesthetic. Furthermore, Kru Khemer engage in a variety of traditional medical practices including bone setting, herbalism, and divination; in this way, Kru Khemer maintain a vital societal role given their deep knowledge not just in medicinal plants and animals, but also in their knowledge of spiritual rituals that mediate the supernatural and the plant.
The CBD Treaty has been interpreted as an important step in sustainable development, a goal for which the U.N established its own ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ protocol under its department of Economic and Social Affairs. Furthermore, the report describes how the UNDP has attempted to support the goals of the CBD in actionable policy: “since 2011 the UNDP, with funding from the Nagoya Protocol Implementation Fund (NPIF) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), has been supporting governments, local communities, and the private sector to develop national ABS frameworks, build capacities, and harness the potential of genetic resources”— and specifically, the UNDP is working with Cambodian officials to implement the new project “Developing a Comprehensive Framework for Practical Implementation of the Nagoya Protocol in Cambodia”. And so, despite lacking crucial support from the United States, responsible bioprospecting, and the revitalization of the CBD, presents an opportunity in combating climate change while encouraging sustainable development and international economic equality; the most effective practices for successful environmental protection derive from supranational pursuits, but they still require national cooperation.
The Mideast won’t see stability or prosperity without an independent Palestinian state, as per the latest outburst of the King of Jordan, whereas and better still, in our personal and would be impartial view, a confederation of the three implicated states: i.e. Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories.
This could bring the most synergy in all domains of life for everyone in the region as well as in the world.
The world’s leading elites and all concerned immediate and full attention should be focused on the current climate change and how to somehow alleviate it.
King: Mideast won’t see stability or prosperity without independent Palestinian state
Jeddah, July 16 (Petra) — His Majesty King Abdullah on Saturday, stressed that there can be no security, stability, nor prosperity in the region without a solution guaranteeing the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the 4 June 1967 lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital, living side-by-side with Israel in peace and security.
In remarks at the Jeddah Security and Development Summit, attended by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah II, King Abdullah said economic cooperation must include the Palestinian National Authority to ensure the success of regional partnerships.
“We must examine opportunities for cooperation and collective action, in pursuit of regional integration in food security, energy, transport, and water,” His Majesty added, noting that Jordan is keen on transforming these opportunities into real partnerships in the region.
Following is the English translation of the King’s remarks at the Jeddah Security and Development Summit, which brought together members of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the United States, Egypt, and Iraq, as well as Jordan:
“In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful, Prayers and peace be upon our Prophet Mohammad.
Your Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Your Majesties, Highnesses, Excellencies, Mr President, Peace, God’s mercy and blessings be upon you.
It is my pleasure to start by thanking my brother Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for the gracious invitation, the warm welcome, and the hosting of this well-organised Summit.
Mr President, Thank you for your participation in this Summit. Your presence today is a testament to the United States’ dedication to the stability of our region and our close and historic partnership. It underlines your leading role and efforts to bolster regional security and support peace and prosperity.
Your Majesties, Highnesses, Excellencies, We meet today as our region and the world face multiple challenges, from the economic repercussions of the COVID pandemic, and the ramifications of the Ukrainian crisis on energy and food, to the continuous conflicts that our region suffers from.
Therefore, we must examine opportunities for cooperation and collective action, in pursuit of regional integration in food security, energy, transport, and water.
We in Jordan are keen on transforming these opportunities into real partnerships in the region, by capitalising on our historical and deep-rooted ties with Gulf Cooperation Council countries, and our brothers in Egypt and Iraq, in service of the interests of our peoples. We embark on these efforts out of our belief that the only way forward is through collective action.
For we in Jordan continue to host over one million Syrian refugees, providing them with various humanitarian, health, and education services, while also countering the renewed security threats on our borders, by thwarting attempts to smuggle drugs and weapons, which now pose a major threat to the entire region.
We shoulder these responsibilities on behalf of the international community, which must carry on with its role in countering the impact of the refugee crisis on refugees and host communities.
Your Majesties, Highnesses, Excellencies, To ensure the success of the regional partnerships that we seek, economic cooperation must include our brothers in the Palestinian National Authority.
And here, we must reaffirm the importance of reaching a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, on the basis of the two-state solution; for there can be no security, stability, nor prosperity in the region without a solution guaranteeing the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the 4 June 1967 lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital, living side-by-side with Israel in peace and security.
In conclusion, I again thank my brother Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for their great efforts to enhance this cooperation and coordination, in service of our region and our world.
And I thank President Biden, once again, for his ongoing efforts to work towards peace, security, and prosperity in our region and our world. Peace, God’s mercy and blessings be upon you.”
Desert tech can transform MENA’s agricultural sector
ABU DHABI, Technological innovations being developed and implemented have the potential to alter production, supply chains, and consumption patterns drastically, in the Middle East and Nort Africa’s (MENA) agritech and foodtech sectors.
Also, rapidly growing interest among Venture Capital funds and sovereign funds to invest in desert tech innovation is bound to grow with state-led food security initiatives, writes Zada Haj, CEO of DANA, the Abu-Dhabi based venture builder and investment platform.
The regional agriculture market is projected to grow at a compounded annual rate of 5.7% through 2026 – not the least because the impact of technology promises to deliver new levels of productivity.
Beginning of their growth
MENA’s agritech and foodtech sectors – or, specific to the region, ‘desert tech’ – are just at the beginning of their growth, expanding especially rapid within the UAE, KSA, North Africa, and Israeli markets. Unlike other emerging sectors, like ecommerce or fintech, agritech and foodtech do not yet enjoy a robust ecosystem of regional entrepreneurs and investors.
A main reason for this difference lies in the long history of agriculture. Farming and food production form the basis of the oldest commercial practices of our region. While the agricultural knowledge accumulated over millennia is an invaluable resource, it has also had the side-effect of slowing the speed with which technology penetrates this old market.
Agriculture and food production make up a large percentage of MENA countries’ GDP. For example, 14% of Egypt’s and 16% of Morocco’s GDP rely entirely on the on the agricultural sector.
Desert tech solutions
For these large markets to maintain their significance and sufficient levels of production in the face of climate change-induced water scarcity, there is dire need for desert tech solutions to be implemented at scale.
Agricultural and other food exports also must adjust to increasingly high standards of EU premium markets – a task agritech and foodtech will play a key part in addressing.
Entrepreneurial spirit is met with a welcome regulatory initiative on the part of Mena governments, leading the way for desert tech to become the new standard in agriculture.
Increasing food production
The KSA is implementing the Sustainable Agricultural Rural Development Programme 2018-25, while the UAE has issued the National Food Security Strategy 2051. Both measures are geared to increase local food production through technology, regulation, and investment.
Qatar’s State Food Security Projects 2019-23 includes establishing an integrated food waste programme, and Morocco’s Green Generation 2020-30 initiative strives to create conditions for high-quality agritech innovation.
Sovereign funds and investment vehicles – important facilitators of growth in the region – have also started to invest more in desert tech. The Abu Dhabi Investment Office invested $100 million in four agritech companies in 2020, while the SVC has invested in several funds backing agritech companies.
While these initiatives are indicative of increased sector relevance and value, the regulatory hurdles are still a significant challenge for the agritech, foodtech, and desert tech sectors. Some regulations in place make it difficult to implement new solutions to be approved and technology to be imported.
The private sector is only getting started to follow suit. Between 2014 and 2020, private investment in desert tech startups amounted to $250 million – a sum split between 33 investments.
At the same time, desert tech’s potential is far from being understood well enough to be accurately priced in at this point in time.
Understanding these sector trends, and acting on them, Dana is one of the very few pioneering platforms in Mena focusing exclusively on desert tech solutions for sustainability in arid climates. “We achieve this by emphasising agrifood innovation through offering in-house pilots and proof-of-concept with our network of beta sites and experimental farms, and identifying solutions that are specifically oriented to the needs and technological literacy of MENA farmers, food producers, and supply chains.”
Successful investment in the agrifood space, and therefore the sector’s growth, are directly tied to the availability of technology infrastructure to convert academic research, prototypes, and early stage patents into commercial operations. This is only made possible by opportunities to test and implement in the field.
Setting an example
This process is not only about effective due diligence, but also sets the example for how private sector entities interested in desert tech should set up infrastructure to serve the ecosystem and their portfolio.
Another contributing factor for desert tech sector growth are new environmental standards being on the rise globally. This trend will become especially salient for the region with the upcoming COP27 and COP28 being held in Egypt and Abu Dhabi.
While the GCC’s investment culture has traditionally favoured low risk, the maturing regional startup ecosystem and increased private funding have opened new opportunities for capital and time intensive ventures – like most desert tech innovations. Often having a longer timeline, this is frequently paired with higher and more stable returns. Mena’s sector growth is in line with global trends showing the rise of agritech and foodtech everywhere.
A fire burns on a wheat field in Jendouba, Tunisia June 6, 2022. Picture taken June 6, 2022. REUTERS/Jihed Abidellaoui
Heat wave and fires damaging Tunisia’s grain harvest
Loss of grain production comes as the North African country struggles with food importation costs driven higher by the war in Ukraine.
Agriculture Minister Mhamoud Elyess Hamza this month forecast the 2022 grain harvest would reach 1.8 million tonnes, up 10% on last year’s.
But farmers union official Mohamed Rejaibia, pointing to fires that began raging over much of the country last month, said that was no longer possible.
“The grain harvest will not be more than 1.4 million tonnes,” said Rejaibia, a member of the union’s executive office. “Some of it will be lost to fires and some perhaps during collection.”
The union and experts say the crop also is suffering direct damage from high temperatures, which have already reached 47 Celsius (117 Fahrenheit) this summer and are forecast to go as high as 49 Celsius. Moreover, the heatwave could hinder agricultural workers in collecting the harvest.
Tunisia has been counting on a big crop to reduce grain imports amid a national financial crisis that is exacerbated by the war. Higher prices of imported food and energy will cost the budget $1.7 billion this year, says the government, which subsidises such supplies.
The country has aimed at self-sufficiency this year in production of durum wheat, the main grain that it produces.
Some farmers are harvesting grain early, accepting smaller crops for fear of losing all their 2022 production to fires.
“Usually we begin the harvest season in July, but this year we started on June 18,” said farmer Abderraouf Arfaoui in Krib, a northern town. “We are afraid of fires. We must watch our land day and night.”
“We must harvest without waiting, even if that reduces the quantity and quality of the wheat, and when we finish the harvest we must watch our haystacks, too.”
President Kais Saied said this month that the grain crop this year would be a target for criminal gangs, which particularly planned to steal products of good quality.
Protecting the crop was a matter of national security, he said.
Reporting By Tarek Amara; Editing by Bradley Perrett / REUTERS
apofeed with “What Lies Beneath the Slow Economic Growth in the MENA?” attempts to elaborate on the current situation that is prevailing in certain MENA countries.
What Lies Beneath the Slow Economic Growth in the Middle East and North Africa?
A dynamic private sector is key for the economies of the region to grow out of their currently high debt levels; Unlocking sustainable growth in the region’s private sector requires reforms that facilitate innovation, the adoption of digital technologies and investments in human capital; Reforms to support these objectives must take account of sustainability and the global agenda to limit climate change
The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the World Bank have published a joint report, Unlocking Sustainable Private Sector Growth in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) (https://bit.ly/3H73CdA). The report analyses constraints on productivity growth and limited accumulation of factors or production in the MENA private sector.
The report is based on the MENA Enterprise Survey conducted between late 2018 and 2020 on over 5 800 formal businesses across Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, the West Bank and Gaza. Historically, economic growth in the Middle East and North Africa has been weak since the global financial crisis of 2007-2009 and the Arab Spring of the early 2010s. Since then, gross domestic product (GDP) per capita has grown by only 0.3% a year in the MENA region. That compares unfavourably with rates of 1.7% on average in middle-income countries and 2.4% in the developing economies of Europe and Central Asia.
Achieving higher and sustainable growth is particularly important in view of other economic challenges facing the region. Public debt has increased considerably over the last decade, accompanied by declining investment. More recently, the coronavirus pandemic has battered the region, further straining public finances. In addition, the Russian invasion of Ukraine affects the MENA economies through higher hydrocarbon prices, risks to food security and declining tourism.
Against this background, it is important that policymakers exploit the potential of the private sector to propel the region towards greater prosperity.
“The spillovers from the war in Ukraine add to structural vulnerabilities in the region. The prospects for global financial tightening, persistently high energy and food prices and concerns for food security come on top of concerns related to weak economic growth and rising debt levels,” said EIB Chief Economist Debora Revoltella (https://bit.ly/2UYJi4s). “When responding to the new shock, MENA countries need to tackle the main structural bottlenecks affecting the region. Reforms that lower regulatory barriers, tackle informal business practices, promote competition, and facilitate innovation and digitalisation are crucial for achieving sustainable economic growth and improving resilience to future shocks.”
The business environment in the MENA region as reported in the survey has been held back by various factors. Political connection and informality are undermining fair competition, bringing economic benefits to a limited number of companies. Management practices lag behind benchmark countries, with a decline in average scores in all MENA countries since 2013.
Customs and trade regulations appear to be more severe barriers for firms in the MENA region than in other countries. Firms need more time to clear customs to import or export than in other countries. The MENA economies depend on high levels of imports compared to low export activities.
Although firms trading in the international market are more willing to develop and innovate processes, only 20% invest in innovation, which can affect the long-term economic prospects for the region.
The region needs to make better use of its human capital. Predominantly, only a few foreign-owned companies invest in training their human capital, and they tend to be digitally connected exporting firms. Additionally, a significant share of companies are not engaging in financial activities with other economic players, opting to self-finance voluntarily.
Incentives for companies to decarbonise are weak, and MENA firms are less likely than their counterparts in Europe and Central Asia to adopt measures that reduce their environmental footprint.
Unlocking sustainable growth in the region’s private sector, the report calls for MENA economies to lower regulatory barriers for businesses, promote competition and reduce disincentives emerging from political influence and informal business practices.
The region is also in need of reforms to facilitate innovation, the adoption of digital technologies and investments in human capital, while being in line with the global agenda to limit climate change, enhance sustainability and protect the natural environment.
Improving management practices can be instrumental to that. “Good management practices can account for as much as 30% of differences in efficiency across countries,” said Roberta Gatti, Chief Economist for the Middle East and North Africa at the World Bank. “Management practices are lacklustre in firms in the region, particularly in those with some state ownership. Improving these practices can have substantial benefits, is not costly, but is not easy. It will require — among others — a change in mindsets.”
Companies should also be given incentives to exploit the benefits of participating in cross-border trade and global value chains more broadly, accompanied by better management practices.
At the same time, the state has a duty to ensure that this transition process is just, through measures that help workers to take advantage of opportunities to obtain new, higher-quality jobs linked to the green economy, while also protecting those at risk of losing their jobs. Such measures include labour market policies, skills training, social safety nets and action to support regional economic development.
EBRD Chief Economist Beata Javorcik said: “Climate change creates an opportunity the MENA region to build up its green credentials and use them as a source of competitive advantage. This will create the much-needed high-quality jobs linked to the green economy.”
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of European Investment Bank (EIB).
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