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Tinashe Farawo Correspondent
FROM June 23-25, the country will host the African Union and United Nations Wildlife Economy Summit which is expected to attract more than 500 delegates across the globe including African Heads of State.
The summit will be held in Victoria Falls under the theme, “Communities for conservation; Harnessing Conservation Tourism; Supporting Governments”.
The summit which is expected to be held in the resort town of the mighty Victoria Falls, comes after the Kasane Elephant Summit which was hosted by Botswana President, Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi.
The Kasane summit without doubt was successful and it sets the tone for the region to have a greater say in the management of elephants and their sustainable utilisation.
The summit was attended by four Heads of State from Namibia (Hage Geingob), Zambia (Edgar Lungu), Zimbabwe, Botswana (Masisi) and Angola which was represented by the Environment Minister.
The five countries form the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Areas which is home to 61 percent of the world elephant population. The Kasane Summit came up with a number of far reaching decisions when it comes to wildlife management in Southern Africa.
Kasane also taught Southern Africa the need to speak with one voice on international forums when it comes to issues to with wildlife management for the benefit of communities which bear the brunt of sharing borders with wildlife. Enter the African Union and United Nations Wildlife Economy Summit.
There is no doubt the Victoria Falls summit is of paramount importance, because it will provide a platform for member states to share strategies on leveraging wildlife resources to revamp, boost and turn around African economies. Africa is a future global economic growth engine and wildlife will play a key role.
But this growth faces challenges particularly the degradation of nature and human-wildlife conflicts which have resulted in loss of lives and livelihoods for communities.
Loss of nature is not only a conservation crisis, it is also a human crisis, but when managed correctly, habitat and wildlife are critical resources that contribute to the economic and social health of communities, nations and the planet.
Without doubt, African tourism is wildlife-based hence the need to sustainably manage this God given resource for the benefit of our people, through job creation, infrastructure development, clinics and provision of medicines in these clinics.
Conversely, the loss of habitat created by growing economies and increasing populations of animals has devastating effects on human welfare and on economies. The initiative to hold this summit has been created to address that imbalance. In Zimbabwe, the biggest threats to our wildlife are loss of habitat and climate change-induced drought, therefore the need to manage the populations which is causing habitat loss.
In response to these challenges, President Paul Kagame, during his time as Chair of the African Union, approached UN Environment to develop a response, consequently the African Union and UN Environment are now jointly launching the Wildlife Economy Initiative which will be held in Victoria Falls.
This aims to help fulfil the vision that President Kagame gave to the African Union leaders on the key importance of sustainable conservation to the continent’s successful future.
It is of paramount importance for the continent to take the lead, in partnership with like-minded global organisations, in the sustainable conservation agenda on Africa, because it affects everyone.
Driving conservation will allow the continent to get the most out of Africa’s assets, contribute to better management of our agriculture and tourism sectors, and support efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change for the benefit of motherland. In response to President Kagame’s call, the African Union and UN Environment are to unite political and community leadership, private sector know-how and financial resources for a new vision of pan-African conservation that will deliver sustainable economic benefit to nation states and local communities.
Supported by space for Giants through its Giants Club initiative, the initiative will work to develop the true value of nature and the role it can play in the well-being of citizens through utilisation of the continent’s resources.
One of the most important takeaways from Kasane was to ensure that communities benefit from the natural resources near them.
The summit emphasised the need for people to be empowered and benefit from wildlife resources near them and be meaningful and effective partners in the growing of African economies. These initiatives will contribute towards making conservation profitable and sustainable by unlocking financing and partnerships through enabling responsible investors to help build a “nature based economy.”
The Victoria Falls summit will ensure that Government support sustainable conservation and create a conducive environment for investments, creating job opportunities, national wealth and to secure wildlife for the benefit of current and future generations.
To attract this investment the right operating environment needs to be in place and experts will work with Government on how to deliver this hence the call for dialogue and the summit next month is the right platform. There has been a clarion call to create wildlife economies on the continent, because without doubt the major draw card for tourists in Africa is its rich wildlife resource.
Already in Matabeleland North, in Tsholotsho Zimparks and other private players are building viewing platforms for tourists in communities and already the communities have been trained in tourism. The same project is underway in Hwange where more than 100 buffaloes were translocated with the help of WWF, and all this is done to ensure that communities benefit from the rich wildlife resource near them.
The summit will also ensure that there will delivery of the Giants Club Conservation Investment Toolkit detailing the financial opportunities that nation states can unlock through encouraging sustainable conservation — enabling investment.
The meeting of the African Union and UN Environments renews commitment to unite political and community leadership, private sector know-how and financial resources to create a new vision of pan-African conservation that will deliver sustainable economic benefit to nation states and local communities.
This initiative will forge a new deal for tourism, rural communities and wildlife by 2030 and this is in line with President Mnangagwa’s vision of creating an upper middle income economy by the same year. The summit will ensure that Africans will take the lead in sustainable conservation, partnerships with like-minded global organisations, in sustainable conservation agenda, because it affects all of us directly.
Driving sustainable conservation will allow the continent to get the most out of its resources, contribute to better management of our agriculture, wildlife and tourism sectors ,and support efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change.