Is Africa's rapid growth at the expense of conservation?

With the rapid economic growth and development experienced in Africa in recent years, civil society involved in wildlife and natural resources conservation are questioning whether the growth has been at the expense of conservation.

With the rapid economic growth and development experienced in Africa in recent years, civil society involved in wildlife and natural resources conservation are questioning whether the growth has been at the expense of conservation.

Conservationists fear that with the rapid development, urbanisation and industrialisation of the African continent, natural resources and ecological spaces could be at risk if rapid interventions are not made.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Global Investment Summit in Kigali, last week, African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) president Kaddu Sebunya said countries ought to ensure sustainable ecosystems.

“The reality in Africa is that some of the important investments being sought at this summit will fall in protected areas, forests and wetlands, among other areas. This means that without adequate consideration of environmental risks assessment, we will continue to allow large investments to be set up in fragile ecosystems without adequate planning,” he said.

Sebunya said with the current rates of population growth and urbanisation, African citizens would largely depend on the natural resources for food, energy and infrastructure support, hence the need for prior planning.

“The impacts of our actions will eventually drive human survival to a tipping point. The battle for conservation is not so much about lost ecosystems rather it is one about the continent in the next 50 years. Investments and conservation are not strange bed fellows,” Sebunya said.

He said investors in Africa should regard eco-systems and other ‘vulnerable’ areas as part of infrastructure requiring attention and maintenance.

Among the approaches recommended by AWF is community involvement in conservation and management of protected areas that serve to reduce their vulnerability to urbanisation and industrialisation.

Citing the example of Volcanoes National Park as one of the best case studies, he said it had gone a long way to avoid the depletion of resources even with economic activities in the area.

The Secretary-General of Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, Sidiso Ngwenya, said climate change and risk of depletion of resources brought in a new dynamic in view of urbanisation and industrialisation.

He said development and conservation must go hand-in-hand to maintain productivity of natural resources.

The two bodies, last week, signed an agreement that will see AWF offer advisory services to COMESA on issues affecting wildlife, wild lands and natural resources.

Conservationists have expressed concern over the rapid rate of decline of certain wildlife species, saying they are at risk of extinction.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature recently released a report that showed that, currently, the world is left with about 80,000 animal species, of which 24,000 are at risk of extermination due to insecurity and human activity.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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