African countries make pact to raise Sh200b to fund conservation goals

Kaddu Sebunya, the CEO of Africa Wildlife Foundation during a panel discussion at the Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC) in Kigali, Rwanda. [Courtesy]

African leaders have set out an ambitious target of ending donor reliance and finding ways to finance conservation activities in their countries.

During the ongoing first Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC) in Kigali, Rwanda, a Pan-African Conservation Trust (A-PACT) was launched to address the financing gap in Africa through an independent financing mechanism.

Africa has 8,500 protected and conserved areas, of which an estimated 300 million people rely on ecosystem services for their livelihoods.

Parks are known to play a central role in Africa’s ambitious restoration agenda but maintaining them and all protected areas is quite costly.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Africa has a financing gap for biodiversity estimated at $7 billion, which amounts to similar to less than one per cent of global GDP.

Global experts estimate that financing biodiversity will take between USD722 billion to USD967 billion annually.

But while Africa’s protected area covers 6 million sq. kilometers and encompasses over 8,500 properties, nearly all these spaces face severe or significant budget shortfalls on a regular basis.

It is for this reason that AWF believes the establishment of a Pan-African Conservation Trust is a possible and relevant solution to the current funding crisis around conservation initiatives whose funding gap has been estimated by the African CSOs Biodiversity Alliance to stand at some $700 billion annually.

African stakeholders in conservation say that resources and funding that comes to the region hardly trickles down to local community conservations.

“In some places, more than fifty per cent of the money is caught up in administrative processes because there are many other organizations in the pipeline,” said Frederick Kwame, the vice president of global leadership at Africa Wildlife Foundation (AWF) speaking at the event.

It is estimated that African region spends less than 10 per cent of what is needed to protect and restore nature. The vision set out in A-Pact requires at least $200 billion to finance all of Africa’s protected and conserved areas.

Kwame said most donors have money but give it to institutions that have established systems to manage the resources.

“Our vision is that the Africa protected areas conservation trust fund will create funding channels for different African institutions like young people, indigenous communities and protected areas while using government structures that can have accountability,” he said.

The approximate structure currently set out will start from the former Heads of State who will pitch the issue to the current Heads of State.

“Once adopted by Heads of States, it will go to the Africa Union and eventually bind African countries. A secretariat that sits in between will convene meetings periodically and organise groups,” Kwame explained. 

A recent report launched by Mali Asili, a Non-governmental organisation (NGO) that supports local organisations shows that many African conservation organisations, indigenous people and local communities receive less than one percent of the global climate funds.

“Out of the philanthropic funds for conservation they receive less than five per cent. Some of the challenges local organisations face include complex conditions to access the money and they can only get the funds through intermediaries,” said Njenga Kahero, the director of Mali Asili.

The APAC Congress has attracted over one thousand delegates, of whom majority are from African governments, civil societies and local community organisations.