Nature-based tourism is one of the fastest-growing tourism sectors worldwide and in Africa. It depends on the conservation of natural landscapes and wildlife, so that using ecosystems in this way can jointly promote human well-being and biodiversity conservation if well managed. International tourism represents about 7 percent of the worldwide export of goods-and-services, ranking fourth after exports of chemicals, automotive products and fuels . Nature-based tourism makes up approximately half of the total tourism market. The significance of this sector is discussed more fully in Land resources in Africa and Coastal and marine environments in Africa. Adding value to genetic resources Genetic resources include all chemical and genetic information of substances that could be used as biochemical precursors in the synthesis of pharmaceutical or agricultural products. Selecting substances for investigation often depends on traditional knowledge about which plants or animals are used for specific purposes.
There is a substantial global market for pharmaceutical value-addition to genetic resources. Global sales of pharmaceuticals amounted to US$300,000 million in 1998. Of the 25 percent best-selling drugs worldwide in 1997, 42 percent of sales came from biological or natural products, or entities derived from natural products, with a total value of US$17,500 million. Despite the technical progress in the development of fully synthetic drugs, 11 per cent of the 252 drugs considered as basic and essential by the World Health Organization (WHO) originate exclusively from flowering plants. The pharmaceutical industry is highly researchintensive. Of the average expenditure of US$500 million on the development of a new drug, about 37 percent is spent during the “discovery phase”. Of the approximately 120 pharmaceutical products derived from plants in 1985, 75 percent were discovered by studying their traditional medical use. Traditional African cultures have a deep knowledge of their natural environment, sometimes accumulated over thousands of years.
A second important market for genetic resources is the agro-industry. Responding to global and regional market and financial pressures, farmers now grow a limited number of high-yielding varieties of food crops. This may result in higher income in the short term, but makes production more susceptible to disease or environmental problems, and more dependent on fertilizers and pesticides. Cultivars of many of the world’s most important economic plants stem from a very narrow genetic base. For example, plantations of oil palm in Malaysia are based on material from only four specimens of this plant from Western Africa. Considerable efforts are therefore underway to broaden the genetic bases of crops through the introduction of varieties to increase resilience and maximize productivity. Typically, the development and release of a new, modern variety takes 8-15 years and costs in the range of US$1-2.5 million, for a traditionally bred variety, and US$25-75 million to develop a transgene for genetically modified (GM) varieties. However, the wild relatives of many important food crops are fast disappearing. For example, Ethiopia, which is the geographic origin of coffee and is a centre of genetic diversity, is one country whose biodiversity has been least explored, but has only 4,000 km2 of land containing populations of wild coffee remaining. Many other populations of wild species are increasingly restricted in distribution and fragmented, and nine species for mainland Africa were listed as threatened in 1998.