SA National Botanical Institute: presentation on 2005/6 Year, & Cash Flow Projections & Progress Reports for 2006/7


15 August 2006
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

15 AUGUST 2006

Mr L Zita (ANC)

Documents handed out:
South African National Botanical Institute presentation
South African National Botanical Institute: Marketing & Communication
South African National Botanical Institute: Cashflow Management Report as at 30 June 2006

The South African National Botanical Institute presented some of its key achievements, marketing strategy and financial performance in the 2005/06 financial year. Achievements included the upgrade of visitor, education and research facilities, leading to increased visitor numbers and income. The website recorded frequent access. Large employment and skills development projects had been developed and there had been important publications. High level priorities for the 2006/07 year included work in the Biodiversity Research and Knowledge Sector and creating an expanded partner network. The Institute would develop a new business case and finance strategy as well as improve corporate governance and other links. Its research priorities were driven by a variety of needs, and focused in particular upon biodiversity. An important area of development was the botanical garden in Nieuwoudtville. Some of the challenges included the new business case, clarification of roles and funding responsibilities, decisions on the future of collections and research, the necessity for sustained capital funding, the need to expand the number and diversity of visitors, and human resource issues.

Members raised questions on the Institute’s compliance with ASGISA priorities, the registration of patents on South African plants, its role in macro-economic analysis, its participation in other programmes, and funding given to the biodiversity industry.

The presentation on the marketing strategy outlined that traditionally SANBI had enjoyed support from a small sector of the population. It was the main state organ for managing biodiversity, conservation, sustainable development and human wellbeing. All its different facilities required to be marketed both locally and internationally. The new and comprehensive strategy was outlined. There was a three-year plan which aimed to establish a strong brand, increase visitors and achieve increased income. A number of different strategies were illustrated. The marketing challenges included identification and management of success factors, correcting logistical problems and maximising the small budget. Questions on this presentation addressed the strategies to increase public awareness, and empowering of communities,

SANBI finally gave a presentation of the finances, which indicated that SANBI aimed to break even on its budged. As at 30 June 2006 revenue received and expenditure amounted to R260 million. The first quarter of 2006/07 showed expenditure exceeding income but SANBI would break even over the year. Questions by Members related to the reasons for the break-even budget, and the quality of spending on black economic empowerment.

Briefing on Progress report for 2005/06 and plans for 2006/07
Prof Brian Huntley (Chief Executive Officer (CEO): South African National Botanical Institute (SANBI)) highlighted the key achievements of 2005/06. SANBI was established and positioned as a leading institution in Africa and beyond. The Southern African Botanical Diversity Network was concluded and attained a highly successful rating. Visitor, education and research facilities were also upgraded, which led to 7.5% increase in visitor numbers and a 15% increase in income to gardens. The SANBI website received over 15.5 million hits per year and over 3.6 million page downloads.

There had been successful implementation of large employment and skills development projects such as Greening the Nation (GTN) and Working for Wetlands (WFW). SANBI had published the Mainstreaming Biodiversity in Production Landscapes, a new Vegetation Map of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland and the South African Response to the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation.

Some of SANBI’s high level priorities for 2007 included further work on their Biodiversity Research and Knowledge Sector, and creating an expanded managed network of partners. SANBI would develop a new business case and financing strategy, as well as attain legislative coherence and good corporate governance, and create links with NEPAD.

Some of SANBI’s key research priorities were driven by international, national, provincial, and local Government needs. The core thrusts were to discover, describe and make inventories of biodiversity as well as to understand ecosystem structure and dynamics. There was a need to unleash biodiversity information and to improve planning and policy-making. There had been a steady increase in investment in the various botanical gardens, with R366 million being invested in 2005 alone.

One of SANBI’s focus areas was the National Botanical Garden for the Northern Cape at Nieuwoudtville, which held the world’s richest diversity of flowering bulbs. Its main priority was conservation in National Spatial Biodiversity Assessment. There was high illiteracy and unemployment in the area, but there was also high eco-tourism potential and a supportive municipality and provincial Government.

Some of the challenges facing SANBI included preparation of a new business case for approval by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) and National Treasury. The roles and funding responsibilities of the DEAT and the Department of Science and Technology needed to be decided. The future of the National History Collections in Museums and of taxonomic research in South Africa also needed clarification. There had to be sustained capital expenditure funding for expanded facilities required by SANBI. SANBI had to develop strategies to double the number of black visitors by 2010. A new CEO had to be appointed. SANBI would also work on a skills retention and attraction strategy.

Mr A Mokoena (ANC) queried SANBI’s response to the Accelerated Shared Growth Initiative of South Africa on skills.

Prof Huntley replied that more people had realised that a career could be made from horticulture and thus SANBI was able to appoint more black horticulturalists by SANBI. SANBI actively encouraged many school and university students to do internships with it over holidays.

Mr Mokoena also queried the current situation regarding registration of patents for unique South African plants.

Prof Huntley reported that the registration of patents was a very complex, expensive and long process. SANBI had registered a few hybrid plants but it was not possible to register everything.

Ms J Chalmers (ANC) asked if SANBI played a role in, and had an influence upon macro-economic analysis.

Prof Huntley replied that SANBI was able to participate in macro-economic analysis through the Biodiversity Act and the Bio-Regional framework for DEAT. During the following year SANBI would commission an analysis of all the biodiversity regulations to assess their performance and effectiveness.

Ms C Zikalala (IFP) asked how well the GTN programme was performing.

Mr Huntley replied that 113 schools across the country were participating in the GTN and it was proceeding very well. Department of Housing had asked to combine the project with its house-building programmes under the Extended Public Works Programme.

The Chairperson asked whether philanthropic donations made to the biodiversity industry in South Africa were comparable with the rest of the world.

Mr Huntley replied that substantial amounts of money were received from South Africans. The United States of America was far ahead when judged on amounts, as it offered tax incentives for such donations. South Africa needed to target these funds and create further incentives for donations.

Briefing on SANBI’s Marketing Strategy
Ms Tsotso Sehoole (Marketing Manager: SANBI) reported that SANBI’s new marketing plan had to recognise the fact that SANBI had been in existence since 1858, as also that the science of studying flora and fauna had always been integral to human life. SANBI had traditionally enjoyed support and patronage mainly from the white population, and on a limited scale. SANBI was the main State organ tasked with marine and biodiversity management, facilitating conservation, sustainable development of living resources and human well being.

SANBI’s new marketing strategy aimed to market all of SANBI’s activities, and show how its facilities could be used for activities ranging from scientific study to leisure. The plan included strong media liaison and lobbying. The plan sought to establish a strong SANBI brand, achieve a 50% increase in visitors to the seven National Botanical Gardens (excluding Kirstenbosch Gardens which was already very successful), and achieve a 5% increase in income through donations, sponsorships, gate-takings and sales.

The strategy would promote SANBI facilities and services comprehensively and implement specific target market strategies to attract historically disadvantages individuals (HDIs) and to increase visitors to the National Botanical Gardens. The strategy would be implemented locally and internationally through an aggressive three-year plan.

SANBI facilities and services would all be profiled, with special emphasis on points of differentiation. SANBI’s successes would be illustrated through a number of projects. They would be assessed in quantitative and qualitative terms. Emphasis would be placed on SANBI’s superior value for money, stressing proximity, low entry fees and other inclusive benefits. SANBI’s role in scientific research would be used as a marketing tool.

Marketing would make use of free mass communication media, media buying, advertising, meetings, presentations and exhibitions. Public relations activities would include continuous interaction with target audiences through functions; media releases; newsletters and other print material; the SANBI website and exhibitions. SANBI would also pursue collaborative marketing synergies with provincial and local authorities and parastatals.

Challenges included identifying and managing all critical success factors, addressing the transport and logistical problems for HDIs, and developing ways to maximise the small marketing budget and resources.

Ms Chalmers asked how SANBI aimed to increase public awareness of itself, and how it would judge the success of marketing.

Ms Sehoole replied that SANBI had a media strategy and would also co-operate better with provinces. Campaigns such as GTN and WFW would be used to increase awareness. SANBI would assess its performance after a year, and reporting systems relating to performance of the Botanical Gardens were being developed.
Ms Zikalala asked how the gardens empowered communities

Ms Sehoole replied that projects such as GTN employed local people, and SANBI also ran a project to teach about biodiversity. Other projects, such as WFW, aimed to give skills to unemployed people.

Briefing on Financial Performance
Mr Sunjit Singh (Chief Financial Officer, SANBI) tabled and explained SANBI’s financial performance. He reported that as at 30 June 2006, revenue received and money expended amounted to R260 300 000. He explained that SANBI operated on a break-even budget.

SANBI had exceeded its 2005/06 expenditure targets for Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) services, spending R 58.1 million, compared to a budgeted target of R46.4 million. During the first quarter of 2006/07 income of R35 059 000 had been received, with expenditure of R 56 161 000. SANBI would break-even by the end of the financial year..

Mr Mokoena asked whether SANBI had taken a conscious decision on a ‘break-even budget’ or whether this was necessitated by Government policy. He asked if this constrained its activities as it was not able to build up reserves of cash

Mr Singh confirmed that unfortunately this form of budgeting did constrain many activities. Many projects had to be delayed, as the lack of funding led to a need to prioritise projects strictly.

The Chairperson queried the quality of the BEE spending and asked if SANBI was satisfied that it was getting value for money

Mr Singh replied that to a large extent value for money had been achieved, but there was still a challenge in raising some of the services to an appropriate standard and quality, especially since the needs of the biodiversity industry were very specialised.

The meeting was adjourned.



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