Rwanda will next year host the first-ever African congress that will table a serious conversation on how to solicit financing and initiatives to manage and conserve Africa’s protected areas.
The Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC) slated to take place in Kigali in March 2022 was officially announced yesterday by Rwanda’s Minister of Environment, Dr Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya.
The launch event was attended by African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) CEO, Kaddu Sebunya, Regional Director, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Eastern and Southern Africa, Luther Bois Anukur – and the Rwanda Development Board Head of Tourism and conservation, Ariella Kageruka.
The above officials hinted on the fact that it’s a pity that Africa is for the first time planning to discuss the subject of managing protected areas as a way of improving welfare for over 1.3 billion Africans, a matter that has been discussed among other continents for long.
Protected areas which include national parks, reserves, habitats and landscapes are clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values, according to IUCN definition.
According to official statistics at AWF there are over 1,300 protected areas in Africa which have been poorly or not well managed due to lack of funding, political will and citizen’s engagement.
AWF CEO Kaddu Sebunya said that so far only $300million is availed out of the $2.5billion needed so as to manage conservation programmes in Africa’s protected areas, which are not only critical to wildlife but the actual human existence in the ecosystem.
“The state of Africa’s wildlife is approaching a critical point, but it’s not too late to act. The congress will seek to empower the next generation of leaders to realize an African future where wildlife and wild-lands are valued as an asset that contributes to development,” said Kaddu Sebunya.
Sebunya said that the congress will thus give Africa a platform to plead its case to African leaders, citizens, and interest groups to discuss the role of protected areas in conserving nature, safeguarding Africa’s wildlife.
Africa will be able to present a unified front towards delivering a lasting balance between people, prosperity and planetary boundaries.
“The congress will form a coalition that will craft a vision of the future architect for development that recognizes that while economic development is necessary it has to be done in the spirit of a social compact for a socially and environmentally just economy and maintaining respect for nature,” Sebunya said.
Sebunya commended Rwanda for its global conservation reach made through numerous unprecedented initiatives towards universal forest restoration and conservation of which he said there is no better candidate to play host than Rwanda.
AWF data shows that only Rwanda, Kenya and South Africa, and recorded annual protected area budgets above US $1600 per sq. kilometer — while they meet the funding requirements, the researchers point out that regional average are marginally equal and too low.
For example, Tanzania, Kenya’s neighbor to the south, allocates a fraction of the required annual budget — less than US $300 per sq. kilometer to secure its parks and wildlife management areas
Minister Mujawamariya said that Government of Rwanda recognizes the role of protected and conserved areas in ensuring the conservation of nature, sustaining ecosystem services and promoting sustainable development and is very proud to take up the global conservation leadership mantle as Rwanda becomes the first African country to host the African Protected Area Congress.
“We are indeed hopeful that through these efforts and deliberations obtained through the congress, Rwanda and the rest of Africa will be on the right trajectory towards recovery of our protected and conserved areas,” Mujawamariya said.
For national economies, like Rwanda’s that depend on a vibrant wildlife-based ecotourism industry (with 10% GDP contribution), allocating enough funds and citizen participation to maintain its protected area system and the iconic species therein is a priority.
RDB Head of Tourism and conservation, Ariella Kageruka said that Rwanda will use the congress to showcase its achievements in conservation but also learn from other country’s’ best practices especially in promoting high end tourism with value to citizens.
According to Luther Anukur, IUCN Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, the congress will congregate over 2000 participants from Africa who will raise about $1.5 million to organize the event which will be held from 7th – 12th March 2022.