There is an urgent need for African countries to increase the level of investment in biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services, Rwandan Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente has said.
“This requires strong public-private partnerships to protect, restore and sustainably manage Africa’s rich biodiversity,” he said at the official opening of the African Protected Areas Congress (APAC) which took place held in Kigali on Monday 18 July.
The first-ever continent-wide gathering of more than 2,000 delegates, including African leaders, wildlife conservation organizations and interest groups, among others, will continue until July 23.
Discussions range from funding the safeguarding of Africa’s iconic wildlife to providing vital ecosystem services and promoting sustainable development while preserving Africa’s cultural heritage and traditions.
Ngirente stressed that it is in everyone’s interest that the ecosystem be well taken care of, as the consequences of not doing so are serious for human life.
“We must spare no effort to protect and conserve this biodiversity. As humans, we all depend on a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment to survive.
According to the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), co-organizers of the high-level summit, there are more than 1,200 national parks in Africa but they are not well managed due to funding shortfalls.
Najib Balala, Kenya’s Minister of Tourism and Wildlife explained that the reason wildlife conservation has never been an African affair is that “we depend on ‘if there is funding from abroad and NGOs, then wildlife conservation takes place'”.
“The failure as Africans and governments is that we have not invested enough in wildlife conservation…create our own funding and position, I appreciate foreign funders for all this time that they supported but it’s time for us to reflect internally.”
Rozan Al Mubarak, President of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) reiterated that protected areas must be managed effectively and equitably by and for indigenous communities.
“To do this, we absolutely need to secure them additional and sustainable long-term funding because…ecotourism revenues can quickly erode,” she said.
A protected area is a geographical space, dedicated and managed for the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural value.
Africa has more than 8,500 protected areas.
On the sidelines of the APAC, Rwanda has officially launched the Nyandungu Ecotourism Park, an urban wetland that has been transformed from a degraded wetland into an educational and recreational facility, the first of its kind in Kigali.
The 121-hectare park restored in six years is home to more than 62 local plant species and more than 100 bird species.
The conference is organized in partnership with IUCN and the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) – the leading international conservation organization focused exclusively on Africa’s wildlife and wild lands.
The opening ceremony took place in the presence, among others, of former heads of state, including Hailemariam Desalegn, the former Ethiopian Prime Minister, and Issoufou Mahamadou, the former President of Niger.