Many communities across Africa rely on tourism to generate income and other benefits from wildlife on their land. However, all forms of tourism, including photographic tourism and trophy hunting, are extremely vulnerable to social, economic or political instability and changes in the international market.
In order for wildlife to survive on communal lands, communities that manage the land or live in close proximity to wildlife have to derive tangible benefits. Over the past 30 years, different forms of tourism have provided significant benefits, including revenues, to rural communities who share their land with wildlife. This income has enabled these communities to fund the operational costs of wildlife management, such as employment of community scouts to do patrols and monitor wildlife, institutional governance arrangements to ensure that the benefits are equitably used and distributed, and often other benefits like direct cash payments, school fees and community development projects. In this way, wildlife-based tourism not only funds nature conservation but also provides income and employment to a significant proportion of rural people in many African countries.
The shock to the tourism sector caused by the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the vulnerability of a conservation model based primarily on tourism. All touristic activity was brought to an abrupt end in March 2020 when the world responded to the pandemic with an almost total global shut down of commercial passenger flights and lockdown measures. Employees in the tourism sector lost their jobs and livelihoods, with a disproportionate impact on people in remote and rural areas. Before COVID-19, wildlife tourism directly contributed US$29.3 billion in GDP to the economy in Africa and directly provided 3.6 million jobs across the continent, over one-third of all jobs in tourism (36.3%).
With the prospect of very few tourist arrivals in the short-term, protected areas and other conserved lands have had problems paying the salaries of rangers and other staff, who must find other ways of sustaining their families. As people lose their jobs and livelihoods, there are growing fears of a surge in illegal hunting for both subsistence and to feed commercial trade due to the decreased patrolling of parks and conservation areas in an Africa that is in ‘lockdown’. While the prospects for recovery in the tourism sector are a matter of intense speculation, it is possible, and indeed likely, that it will take years to see a return to pre-pandemic levels of economic activity. Even when economic activity restarts, more resilient and sustainable wildlife economies are needed to diversify risks for communities, governments and the private sector.
To discover and incubate new revenue models that do not depend on tourism, but still enable local communities in Africa to derive income from wildlife, manage their natural resources sustainably and improve their collective wellbeing.
We are looking for innovative concepts, ideas, revenue or finance models that can generate sustained benefits for rural communities from wildlife conservation, beyond tourism. We are not calling for investment-ready proposals, but for ideas with high potential that might be developed during our incubation programme.
All ideas must create value for both communities and nature. We have laid out five equally important criteria that should be addressed in answering the questions in the application form. Diversity, gender inclusivity and social equity should be guiding principles for all successful ideas.
Applications are now open! You must fill out and submit the online application form before 15 October 2020 (23:59 CEST). You are encouraged to submit your application as early as possible.