Wildlife Conservation Efforts Spark Public-Private Partnerships in Africa
Throughout Africa, governments and private organizations are partnering to conserve Africa’s endangered wildlife. Wildlife conservation’s appeal stems not only from ideals of social responsibility, but also from diverse economic interests. These interests stimulate a variety of business partnerships, including public-private ones, in Africa’s wildlife conservation.
The Economics of Conservation
African nations are among the fastest-growing economies in the world. In a number of African countries, tourism is a vital component of economic growth. For example, in Cape Verde, tourism revenue comprises fifteen percent of national GDP. Wildlife is a key driver of African tourism. For private entities, investing in Africa’s wildlife-based tourism can reap promising returns. In Namibia, private organizations invest millions of dollars in wildlife conservancy projects, with financial rates of return ranging from eight to nineteen percent.
Private, Non-State Actors in Africa’s Wildlife Conservation
Private companies participate in wildlife conservation in Africa both directly and indirectly. Resourceful private entities see economic opportunity in Africa’s demand for wildlife conservation, and seize upon it by partnering with governments to fulfill conservation initiatives. In Rwanda, an American consulting firm contracted with the Rwanda Development Board to develop a business plan for park management and conservation efforts, which aimed to leverage Rwanda’s tourism assets. In Ethiopia, the same firm partnered with the Ethiopia Conservation Wildlife Authority to boost tourism by developing a concession structure and locating a private financier for conservation programs in the Bale Mountains National Park.
Private entities in other sectors, such as natural resource prospectors, participate indirectly in wildlife conservation by crafting business strategies that account for conservation. Such strategies can mitigate legal and environmental costs, and also foster rapport with local communities and governments. For example, several multinational mining corporations partnered with international conservation NGOs to assess the impact of their operations on biodiversity and acquire technical and scientific expertise in African regions where they operate. One mining company with prospective rights to iron ore in Guinean forests engaged a conservation NGO to conduct biodiversity research in areas affected by its mining plans. The NGO’s presence and relationships in Guinea made it a well-matched partner for the mining company. The company had access to the NGO’s network of scientists who specialized in West African forests.
Recent Conservation Initiatives May Offer New Opportunities for Partnerships
African governments continue to advance new wildlife conservation initiatives. Recent legislation in Kenya illustrates this development. Kenya is home to a number of rare species, including rhinoceroses and elephants, which are vital to its economy. Seventy-five percent of Kenya’s tourism revenue derives from wildlife-based tourism. Kenya recently enacted the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, which creates conservation incentives, adopts a compensation scheme for human-wildlife conflict, and establishes penalties for harming wildlife and polluting wildlife ecosystems. The Act provides that when a corporation violates its provisions, the corporate body and every director or officer “who had knowledge or ought to have known of the commission of the offence and who did not exercise due diligence, efficiency, and economy to ensure compliance with this Act, commits an offence.” Wildlife Conservation and Management Act § 103(1), 181 Kenya Gazette Supplement (Acts No. 47) 1235, 1308 (Dec. 27, 2013).
The Wildlife Conservation and Management Act calls for, among other initiatives, schemes and incentives to secure sustainable wildlife zones, systems to monitor and collect data on wildlife, plans for capacity development and training in wildlife management, environmental and species impact assessments, and procedures to obtain consent from the Kenya Wildlife Service (“KWS”) for mining, bio-prospecting, and other business activities that could affect wildlife. The Act also declares that KWS is a “joint partner on behalf of the people of Kenya in all bio-prospecting involving any wildlife resources.” Id. at 1265, § 22(6). The KWS is undertaking transition efforts to implement the Act; a daunting task in light of the law’s broad scope and ambitious objectives.
The wide range of responsibilities that Kenya’s Wildlife Conservation and Management Act assigns to KWS, along with the Act’s infancy, present circumstances ripe for private engagement. Like the public-private partnerships noted above involving government entities in Rwanda and Ethiopia, private firms might be able to partner with KWS to help it carry out Act-mandated tasks and develop efficient strategies to accomplish the Act’s objectives. Indeed, in December of 2013, KWS issued a request for proposals for consultants to provide a comprehensive review of its organizational structure. KWS also promotes investment opportunities for foreign investors, and partners with private entities to develop infrastructure for parks and reserves, facilitate tourism activities, and secure financial returns.
Kenya’s Wildlife Conservation and Management Act is noteworthy for all private entities doing business in Kenya because of its potential applicability to a range of activities. These entities should consider taking cautionary measures, with appropriate legal and expert guidance, to ensure that their business activities in Kenya comply with the Act’s provisions, and to reduce their risks of being penalized under the Act. Businesses should carefully review, among other portions of the Act, the Act’s provisions on permits, consent from KWS to engage in certain activities, and environmental and species impact assessments, which affect a variety of commercial operations.
Africa is home to a remarkable spectrum of rare wildlife. But some of these animals tread the threshold of extinction. Wildlife conservation is vital to Africa’s culture and economic progress. Private entities that pursue partnerships in Africa’s wildlife conservation may realize financial rewards, and, in turn, these partnerships may preserve Africa’s vulnerable wildlife—breathing gems in scarce supply.