For African biodiversity conservation to be sustainable, there is a need for a “mindset change” to stop looking at it as a donor-funded project, African leaders said Thursday.
Speaking at the Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC) underway in Rwanda’s capital Kigali, Kenya’s Tourism and Wildlife Minister Najib Balala said the culture of depending on international non-governmental organizations for Africa’s wildlife conservation needs to be changed.
“The failure as Africans and governments is that we haven’t invested enough in wildlife conservation. It is driven by donors, the agenda is donor-related, and we are actually spectators. Yet by default, the benefit has been tourism…Let us develop our own funding mechanism,” said Balala.
Balala suggested a funding mechanism of levying at least $10 on every foreign tourist visiting the continent, which he said could generate $1 billion every year to be invested in conservation.
“I feel very strongly that we have not invested enough in wildlife conservation. The protected areas we talk about were designed by colonialists. Conservation doesn’t become a donor-funded project, it becomes a mainstream. We need to change our attitude and Africans must learn to tour our places,” he said.
Former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn mentioned the need for diversification and innovative financing models for protected and conserved areas.
The six-day event due to close on Saturday drew more than 2,000 participants from 52 African countries and beyond to address challenges and drive action for Africa’s protected and conserved areas.
Discussions have centered on the key role of protected and conserved areas in safeguarding the continent’s iconic wildlife, delivering vital ecosystem services, driving sustainable development and conserving Africa’s cultural heritage and traditions.
Rwanda’s Environment Minister Jeanne D’Arc Mujawamariya urged African countries to put environmental conservation at the heart of every project in terms of planning and financing.
“We can start from domestic resources before looking outside for wildlife conservation funding,” she said.
The event is expected to culminate in the adoption of the Kigali Call to Action by all participants.
The conference was organized by Rwanda in partnership with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), an international conservation organization.
There are more than 1,200 national parks in Africa whose management remains wanting due to funding challenges, according to the AWF.
It requires $2.5 billion for the management of national parks in Africa, but less than $500 million is currently allocated to run these parks, said Kaddu Sebunya, chief executive officer of the AWF.