Analysing the use of South Africa’s biological and genetic resources through artificial intelligence (AI)

The BioInnovation Monitoring Tool (BioMoT)

As an exhibitor at the Biodiversity Economy and Investment Indaba hosted by the Department of Forestry Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) presented the BioInnovation Monitoring Tool (BioMoT). This innovative Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered tool has been developed within the German-South African Cooperation on conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity under the BioInnovation Africa project. The BioMoT leverages AI to analyse large online datasets for trends in research, patenting, and products. It facilitates automated analysis and reporting, enabling efficient monitoring of local and international use of South African biological and genetic resources, including Digital Sequence Information (DSI). These insights inform policy development, promoting the biodiversity economy and ensuring compliance with the Nagoya Protocol of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

The tool benefits various stakeholders, including industry, government, and academia. It supports the National Biodiversity Economy Strategy and the Bioeconomy Strategy, which promote wealth creation, employment, and equitable benefit sharing. Reports from the tool serve to warn early of emerging market trends that could harm indigenous biological resources, thereby aiding biodiversity conservation efforts. As the tool helps to monitor online illegal trade in South African biodiversity, it supports the scientific authority and enhances efforts like the National Response Strategy to combat the illegal trade in South African succulent flora. It can also be used by industry to track trends in patents and scientific research and therefore to identify new markets. Please see the BioMoT brochure for further information.

Amongst those visiting the SANBI stand was Minister Creecy of the DFFE. The functionalities of the BioMoT were presented to her, using the case of indigenous South African teas to highlight how local industry was caught off-guard when nicotine-infused rooibos heat sticks were introduced to the European market last October by a large multinational company. It was shown how the tool could have helped predict such a commercial move, through the tracking and analysis of global patenting activities in recent years. Discussions are underway between GIZ BIA, DFFE and SANBI regarding the hosting of the tool to allow for its full use by policy makers, and those responsible for monitoring and managing South African biological and genetic resources.

The Biodiversity Economy and Investment Indaba

The Biodiversity Economy and Investment Indaba hosted by the Department of Forestry Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) took place from 25 – 27 March 2024 at Birchwood Conference Centre in Boksburg, South Africa. The indaba brought together biodiversity and conservation stakeholders to engage around the opportunities and challenges within the sector and to create a common plan or programme of action to implement the White Paper. South Africa’s President His Excellency Cyril Ramaphosa attended the indaba on 26 March urging all delegates and South Africans to work towards “growing, transforming and financing” the biodiversity economy. In addition to the stakeholder dialogue over the three days, the exhibition platform provided the opportunity for SMEs and business support organisations to exhibit their products and solutions across the value chain.


April 2024