Conservation of wildlife is frequently seen as a cost to governments, resulting in little investment in wildlife resources despite the extensive contributions that the wildlife economy can, and does, make in terms of employment and revenues. The African Leadership University’s School of Wildlife Conservation received funding to conduct research and produce the inaugural State of the Wildlife Economy in Africa Report to illustrate the current and potential value of wildlife to economies in Africa and through this to encourage investment in this important economic asset.
The overall aim of the report is to highlight the potential of the wildlife economy and encourage more public and private investments in protected and conserved areas to improve biodiversity outcomes and support economic development.
Scope of the Research
Wildlife economies can include a mix of consumptive and non-consumptive uses. The first report focuses on five main wildlife economy activities: ecotourism, hunting, wildlife ranching, carbon finance and non-timber forest products. The activities included in the report were selected based on their potential to contribute to both biodiversity conservation and social and/or economic development.
The full report covers 54 countries in Africa. Data for all 54 countries was, however, not available and the choice of case study countries, with diversity in terms of geographic location, biomes, wildlife economy activities, policy and socio-economic context were selected (selection criteria described below). Throughout the report, text boxes have been included covering other countries in order to cover as many countries on the continent as possible and to provide examples of different approaches to the wildlife economy, as well as innovative examples and best practices.
The case study countries were selected based on the following criteria:
- A diversity of regions: to ensure that we included one example from each of the regions: East Africa; Southern Africa; West Africa and Central Africa
- Diversity of wildlife economy activities: to make sure that the case study countries included a diversity of activities rather than focusing on one activity such as ecotourism, and to make sure that as many different activities were covered as possible, including ecotourism, trophy hunting, game meat hunting, game ranching, non-timber forest products, carbon projects (current and future), artisanal fisheries, etc.
- Diversity of enabling environments: to enable an analysis of different policy, legislation and institutions and their effectiveness in supporting the wildlife economy
- Diversity of biomes and ecosystems, including forest, marine, savannah, fynbos, miombo woodland, tropical rainforest, etc.
- Availability of data: we chose countries where we had a number of in-country contacts to assist with on the ground research, given that the team couldn’t travel due to the COVID pandemic.
Based on this selection process, the case study countries included are Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, and South Africa. Future reports will focus on different case study countries each time.
Insights from the research process
During the research for this report, it was found that very few countries in Africa have a good understanding of the value of the wildlife economy at a national level. For certain wildlife economy activities, there was information and data available at a local, and often only a project level, and often this data was only collected for the duration of the project, or when funding was available. This resulted in data for the continent, as well as per country, largely being inconsistent, incomparable, and often quite old.
The overall research project highlights a large gap in data for the value of the wildlife economy and the important need to have consistent, comparable data to ensure that the value of the wildlife economy is truly understood. This information would allow for better policy and investment decision making and would encourage greater investment in the wildlife economy once the true value is understood.
The Ghana Case Study
The Ghana case study is the first of the case studies to be published. The case study highlights the diversity of wildlife economy activities in Ghana along with a supportive enabling environment, but there are many challenges in terms of monitoring and regulation, resulting in declining biodiversity and huge losses of revenue to the country from illegal and unregulated activities.
Upcoming Case Studies and Webinar
The case studies on South Africa and Kenya will be published in October and November and we will be holding a Wildlife Economy Webinar on the 24th November at 16h00 (CAT) to discuss the published case studies as well as look at ways to address the wildlife economy data gaps. You can register for the webinar here.
The full report, which includes all the case studies, sections on policy and legislation, as well as data on the five main wildlife economy activities, will be published in February 2021.
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Note: For the purposes of this research, the wildlife economy is defined as: “The Wildlife Economy uses wildlife, plants and animals (marine and terrestrial), as an economic asset to create value that aligns with conservation objectives and delivers sustainable growth and economic development”