for Africa's Wildlife
Africa is endowed with rich and diverse natural resources, which have immense economic value and form a critical natural asset for the region’s development. The value of wildlife is, however, poorly understood and largely not taken into consideration in decision-making, policy development or in practice.
A large portion (59%) of Africans live in rural areas and are heavily dependent on natural resources for survival and livelihoods. Local and national economies also rely heavily on natural resources, such as soil, forests, water, fisheries, non-timber forest products and tourism. The sustainable use of these natural resources is core to a prosperous future, reducing poverty and creating more resilient economies in the region. Africa’s biological richness and unique wildlife has long been a focus of biodiversity conservation efforts but is also a source of competitive advantage. The region hosts 8 of 34 global biodiversity hotspots and a quarter of global mammal species with the largest assemblages on Earth (UNEP, 2010). It is also home to the second-largest tropical forest block in the world and three of the most productive marine ecosystems on the planet (Belhabib et al., 2019). These resources are, however, rapidly declining in the face of various, mostly human-induced threats, with serious implications for conservation, human welfare, and local and national economies. African countries must effectively manage their unique natural resources for them to deliver a sustainable flow. Formally protected, as well as other conserved areas, are a major strategy for addressing biodiversity loss as well as providing various benefits through tourism and other ecosystem services. However, they are underfunded, and underperforming in meeting ecological, social, and economic goals (Lindsey et al., 1018). Wildlife economy activities can contribute to this funding, as well as to providing incentives for communities and other stakeholders to invest in, and conserve, natural resources and keep conservation as a primary land use, inside and outside of protected areas.
Despite the importance of these unique natural resources, a recent Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) report (2018) highlights that the current decline and loss of biodiversity is reducing nature’s contributions to people in Africa. This loss is affecting their daily lives and negatively impacting targets for sustainable social and economic development. Together with the growing impacts of climate change, the need to build forward better after the COVID-19 pandemic, and the longer-term goals of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as Agenda 2063, countries and individuals are placing growing importance on investing in conservation and growing wildlife economies. In short, investment in conserving living natural resources is essential to ensure sustainable development and economic growth.
The wildlife economy offers a key growth opportunity for Africa given the comparative advantage of the wildlife economy in the African context as local livelihoods and macro-economies are heavily tied to, and reliant on, wildlife and other natural resources. Biodiversity conservation, ecosystem health and climate change in Africa all have the potential to be economic and welfare challenges with huge implications for the future wellbeing of African societies. Investment in, and growth of, the wildlife economy has the potential, if managed correctly, to address these challenges. Given the importance of the wildlife economy to future sustainable growth and development in Africa, this is a topic that African policymakers, conservationists, communities, and private investors alike should all be interested and investing, both capacity and finances, in.
The Roadmap for Africa’s Wildlife Economy provides a summary of the main facts and figures from the full State of the Wildlife Economy report published in March this year. It also includes five key steps to unlocking the wildlife economy, along with practical examples of how this has been done in Africa. French and Portuguese versions of the Roadmap report will be published shortly.