By Justin Kayiranga
After being officially launched in Kigali on the 20th of April 2021, Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC) is believed by different environmental Stakeholders to be a good platform to handle the maximum threats to the environment on the African continent.
The fact of APAC being the first of its kind in Africa gives the congress another value as it will be an opportunity for Africans to discuss why protected areas are so important and what is required for their management as explained by Kaddu Sebunya, the CEO of African Wildlife Foundation (AWF).
“Protected areas play a very important role in our existence on this continent as more than 70% of water sources in Africa comes from protected areas. Africa has never had a conversation on why this is important in our economic aspirations.”
He added: “After the congress, we will know the Africa we want now and the Africa we shall leave for our next generation”
Poor Management of these protected areas in Africa is seen as one of the main reasons why there is a decline of natural ecosystems at a higher rate than experienced before.
Luther Anukur, the director of IUCN Eastern and Southern Africa (ESARO) says that protected areas in Africa remain the principal safe place for biodiversity in Africa which is a home to more than 1.2 billion people, and he calls on everyone to play his own role in saving biodiversity.
“The aim of protected areas is to achieve conservation objectives which includes the preservation of landscapes and species as well as the protection of natural ecosystems which are critical in addressing the impact of climate change and sustainable development in Africa”
“This will require a renewed commitment and the private sector and civil society should be a part of the solutions to save our biodiversity” Says Anukur.
Speaking on behalf of the Rwandan government at the launch of the APAC in Rwanda, Dr. Mujawamariya Jeanne D’Arc, Rwanda’s Minister of Environment revealed that protected areas are not only for environmental benefits but also for economic growth to the community.
“In Africa, protected and conserved areas are vital for biodiversity conservation and cornerstone for sustainable development. They have generated a significant economic return through ecotourism and are important for the livelihood for millions of Africans households.”
She added that “We are indeed hopeful that through these efforts and deliberations obtained through the congress, Rwanda and the rest of Africa will be on the right trajectory towards recovery of our protected and conserved areas”
Africa has more than 1300 protected areas across the continent according to IUCN numbers and about $300millions are spent every year in the management of these protected areas but still there is a gap as these experts say that at least more than $2.5 billion are needed annually to ensure the efficient management.
Currently, Africa counts 48 of over 200 natural-cultural sites on the UNESCO world heritage including places like Virunga mountains and Mount Kilimanjaro and others.