Victoria Falls – Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa officially opened the African continent’s first-ever Wildlife Economy Summit in Victoria Falls this morning, which brings together African Heads of State, ministers, community representatives, private investors and scientists to work towards changing the way the continent manages its nature-based economy.
In attendance at the Summit are Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi EK Masisi, Namibia’s President Hage Geingob and President Edgar Lungu of Zambia, as well as 12 Ministerial delegations from across Africa.
“We are delighted to be hosts to this inaugural wildlife economy summit, the first of its kind on the African continent, which is being held under the theme Communities for Conservation: Harnessing Conservation, Tourism and Supporting Governments,” President Mnangagwa said in his opening remarks. “This resonates with our renewed efforts to ensure that our citizens benefit from the sustainable management of natural resources and wildlife.”
“I am optimistic that our deliberations will go a long way towards the realization of the conservation agenda of our great content Africa,” he added. “Wildlife resources have a tremendous potential to be instrumental in sustainable social economic development.”
The UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Deputy Executive Director, Joyce Msuya, congratulated President Mnangagwa for organizing such a high-level Summit on Africa’s wildlife economy, adding that the inclusion of communities alongside Heads of State and private investors was a positive step in the shift towards a sustainable wildlife economy for Africa.
“When communities living closest to wildlife have a clear role and stake in managing nature, they have a stronger incentive to conserve it,” she added. “If the communities living with wildlife, are given the tools, incentives and support to find solutions, a conservation renaissance is possible.”
A working paper presented at the Summit by international conservation organization Space for Giants – with the support of UNEP – reports that bringing new, private sector investment to under-funded protected areas to capitalize on surging interest in nature-based tourism in Africa would help fund conservation without draining state finances, while driving sustainable local and national development.
Convened by UNEP and the African Union (AU), and hosted by President Mnangagwa, the Summit will launch the African Wildlife Economy Initiative – a new, Africa-led vision of conservation that links the private sector with national authorities and communities to design and finance conservation-compatible investments that deliver sustainable economic and ecological benefits to countries, people and the environment.
Major commitments and new projects are expected from the Summit – which concludes on 25 June – with workshops and symposiums to follow.