The upcoming Commonwealth Business Forum, to be held on the sidelines of Commonwealth Heads of Government in Kigali, offers a golden opportunity for Africa to showcase the importance of its natural capital to ensure sustainable business continuity.
There is no doubt that Africa must develop to meet the needs of its people. And Africa’s need for economic development is non-negotiable.
But it is urgent that we recognize that most of Africa’s wealth is above ground.
When it comes to Africa’s natural resource wealth, people quickly think of mineral resources or subsoil assets. However, a closer look shows that mineral wealth is concentrated in a few countries – four countries – Nigeria, South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola – accounting for 80% of mineral wealth.
The value of wilderness and rangelands combined represents 33% of Africa’s natural capital and 48% if the four mineral-rich countries are excluded.
Africa’s development path must therefore be underpinned by the reality that our lives and economies are anchored in nature, biodiversity and ecosystem services.
The truth of the matter is that Africa is still losing 35,000 elephants a year; the most trafficked mammal in the world is the African – the pangolin – more than a million a year. Lions are half the population – in my lifetime. Fewer and fewer Africans pay much attention to their wildlife heritage. We have practically outsourced the responsibilities of our heritage to international NGOs and foreign governments.
So how can we change that?
Africa can do better with long term plans and commitments, political will, leadership and good (correct) partners.
African governments must stop pursuing economic strategies that seem to drive out Western economic models. Due to the predominantly young composition of our population – 70% of sub-Saharan Africa is under 30, rather than “building back better” we can simply choose a better path from the start.
To achieve the African model – we are going to need surprising alliances that bring together different sectors – and African budgets and financing plans today must reflect this trajectory. There must be an African model that integrates biodiversity into our development plans. Increasing and sustaining investments in protected and conserved areas is necessary for our economic prosperity.
As it stands, Africa is at an unprecedented economic, ecological and cultural tipping point for sustainable development or the kind of investment in development that the Western world and China have been making for centuries. and are now spending billions to correct.
We have incredible value in our natural resources that can be realized non-extractively due to changes in the way business is conducted these days.
The great benefit of these wealth accounting data for Africa is that we have overvalued minerals and thereby undervalued nature.
Natural habitat, on the other hand, is a renewable resource.
We need to stop neglecting nature and instead focus and prioritize funding for protected areas and conservation areas because they are natural infrastructure.
Africa has it all, but good planning with business, government and communities in the room is key…prioritizing critical natural infrastructure, the desired growth scenario, and then the type of investment needed.
Therefore, it goes without saying that African leaders must make transformational choices that focus on how we can align development goal plans and bring together the diverse interests they represent in ways that ensure that wildlife, like lions or elephants, has a future in the modern world. Africa.
We have no time to lose in ensuring that wildlife and wild lands have a positive place in these decisions and plans, and to secure that place they must contribute significantly to the growth – to the prosperity of African peoples.
The next decade is critical. Decisions made every day undermine this potential to do conservation differently from the rest of the world – we need to act together now.
This next decade will be the tipping point – let’s make sure we tip it in the right direction, towards the future we all want for our children and theirs.
Governments at all levels must help drive green growth across Africa. What will remain of our environment will be determined by the decisions we make about future sources of energy for our industries, means of transport for our populations, our mode of urbanization, food sources and agricultural methods, girls’ education.
Our role as a continent in sustainable development is absolutely vital. This is why we need to step back and reassess our role in embracing sustainable development for the future of our beloved continent.
Therefore, nature represents the last places to provide essential ecosystem goods and services necessary for the current and future development and human well-being that Africa now aspires to.
The wealth of the Commonwealth group is above ground, so let’s do all we can to safeguard it for the future of Africa and our future generations.
The author is CEO, African Wildlife Foundation.