UN, AU Wildlife Economy Summit to launch African-led vision for conservation

Businesses built on Africa’s natural landscapes and wildlife employ millions of people and earn governments billions of dollars in revenue. Image: iStock

Businesses built on Africa’s natural landscapes and wildlife employ millions of people and earn governments billions of dollars in revenue. Image: iStock

The initiative aims to link the private sector with national authorities and local communities for conservation-compatible investments that deliver sustainable economic and ecological benefits.

Heads of state, business leaders, technical experts, and community representatives will gather in Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls from June 23-25 for the Africa Wildlife Economy Summit, which aims to radically change the way the continent’s nature-based economy is managed.

Convened by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the African Union (AU) and hosted by Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the summit will launch the African Wildlife Economy Initiative – a new, Africa-led vision of conservation that links the private sector with national authorities and local communities to design and finance conservation-compatible investments that deliver sustainable economic and ecological benefits to countries, people, and the environment, UNEP said in a statement on Sunday.

At least 12 ministerial delegations, including from Angola, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Gambia, Zambia, Chad, and South Sudan are due to attend, as well as private sector tourism and conservation investors, representatives from communities, conservation scientists, and policymakers. Representatives from at least 30 countries are expected.

Businesses built on Africa’s natural landscapes and wildlife – including tourism, the harvesting of plants and natural products for food, cosmetics or medicines, wildlife credit schemes for direct payments for conservation, or fees, taxes and levies tied to the use of nature, among others – employ millions of people and earn governments billions of dollars in revenue. Alongside commercial rewards, conserved habitats drive local, regional, and global environmental benefits, the statement said.

A working paper by Space for Giants, supported by UNEP and the World Conservation Monitoring Center – to be released at the summit – shows that consumer spending on tourism, hospitality, and recreation in Africa, estimated at $124 billion in 2015, is expected to reach $262 billion by 2030. But even as economies built on wildlife continue to grow, they must take into account economic, social, and ecological sustainability.

Key to social sustainability is ensuring local communities are co-investors in the nature-based economy. The people living with nature must be at the center of transactions, and communities must be treated as equal partners, with their own conservation and development aspirations similarly valued alongside important interventions to conserve species.

“To save wildlife and preserve livelihoods, we must ensure that wild spaces remain a legitimate and competitive land-use option. We must create a new and effective wildlife economy,” UNEP deputy executive director Joyce Msuya said in the statement.

“Africa has made significant headway in protecting natural spaces and conserving wildlife and ecosystems. It is high time to boost economies through Africa-led public-private partnerships that place communities at the heart of investment, while taking into account the need to continue the conservation pathway,”  AU commissioner for rural economy and agriculture Josefa Correia Sacko said.

Major commitments and new projects are expected from the summit, with workshops and symposiums to follow, according to the statement.

– African News Agency (ANA)

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