Africa needs a ‘change of mentality’ to fund the continent’s conservation

KIGALI, Rwanda

For African biodiversity conservation to be sustainable, there needs to be a “change of mentality” to stop viewing it as a donor-funded project, African leaders said on Thursday.

Speaking at the ongoing African Protected Areas Congress (APAC) in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, Kenya’s Minister of Tourism and Wildlife, Najib Balala, said the culture of reliance on non-governmental organizations standards for wildlife conservation in Africa needed to be changed.

“The failure as Africans and governments is that we have not invested enough in wildlife conservation. It is donor driven, the agenda is donor driven and we are in effect spectators. Yet, by default, the benefit has been tourism…Let’s develop our own financing mechanism,” Balala said.

Balala suggested a funding mechanism of levying at least $10 from every foreign tourist visiting the continent, which he said could generate $1 billion each year to invest in conservation.

“I have the very strong feeling that we have not invested enough in wildlife conservation. The protected areas we are talking about were designed by colonialists. Conservation does not become a donor-funded project, it becomes mainstream. We need to change our attitude and Africans need to learn to visit 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 which was due to end on Saturday drew more than 2,000 participants from 52 African countries and beyond to take up challenges and take action for Africa’s protected and conserved areas.

Discussions focused on the key role of protected and conserved areas in safeguarding the continent’s iconic wildlife, providing vital ecosystem services, driving sustainable development and conserving Africa’s cultural heritage and traditions.

Rwandan Environment Minister Jeanne D’Arc Mujawamariya has urged African countries to put environmental conservation at the heart of every project in terms of planning and financing.

“We can start with domestic resources before looking outside for wildlife conservation funds,” she said.

The event is expected to result 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 the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), an international conservation organization.

There are more than 1,200 national parks in Africa that remain undermanaged due to funding issues, according to AWF.

It takes $2.5 billion to manage national parks in Africa, but less than $500 million is currently allocated to managing those parks, said Kaddu Sebunya, AWF’s chief executive.

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