Conservation of ecosystem a catalyst for economic development in Africa Africa’s wildlife also offers huge economic potential to the continent beyond protecting and enhancing livelihoods

NAIROBI. – As the world gears up for the sixth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly scheduled next week, a university official has said conservation of the natural ecosystem could act as a catalyst for economic development across Africa if properly managed.

Veda Sunassee, chief executive of the African Leadership University, a network of tertiary institutions operating in Mauritius and Rwanda, said investment in wildlife conservation and biodiversity regeneration is critical in ensuring the continent’s sustainable economic development and one that benefits local communities.

This is because about 59 percent of Africans live in rural areas and are heavily dependent on natural resources for subsistence and livelihood. Sunassee said Africa’s wildlife also offers huge economic potential to the continent beyond protecting and enhancing livelihoods.

According to findings of the Wildlife Economy Investment Index by the university published in November, wildlife tourism — a central part of Africa’s wildlife economy — could generate more than US$29 billion annually and employ over 3.6 million people.

“Conservation capital research found that 80 percent of tourists to sub-Saharan Africa visit to view wildlife, with those visitors set to double to 134 million by 2030, generating US$260 billion,” he said.

Sunassee said beyond tourism, the wildlife economy presents other benefits such as forest products, which refer to all services derived from forest ecosystems.

In Benin, the forestry sector generates around US$242 million annually, contributing more than 6 percent of its gross domestic product.

The wood energy value chain alone employs 200 000 people, and its annual turnover is nearly US$12 million.

In addition to ecotourism and forest products, Sunassee termed the carbon market and wildlife ranching as other opportunities for Africa’s tourism economy. Together, these constitute a market share of more than US$250 billion a year.

According to the World Economic Forum, nearly a quarter, or 23 percent of Africa’s GDP, is generated from sectors reliant on nature. As such, it is vital to have natural resources conserved and managed for livelihood benefit, and any threats to Africa’s biodiversity should be an immense concern to investors and governments.

Sunassee said biodiversity protection also has health and global implications as it acts as a key defense against climate change, absorbing half of human-generated greenhouse gas emissions. –

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