Rwanda’s lands and wildlife suffered the consequences of catastrophes, both natural and man-made, but protecting and managing Rwanda’s unique biodiversity has been a national priority for the last twenty-five years, said President Kagame at the launch of Africa Leadership University Business of Conservation Conference in Kigali.
Kagame told participants at the conference that, “The business of conservation is everyone’s business. This is especially for a country like Rwanda where the majority of our population is engaged in agriculture and where tourism is our number one foreign exchange earner.”
Kagame said that the fact that the conference took place in Rwanda is “a testament to the hard work of Rwandans who understand that conservation is an integral part of our vision for socioeconomic transformation.”
This mindset, he said, “is important as it allows us to invest in and focus on important aspects of conservation.”
According to President Kagame, progress Rwanda has made in conservation enables the country to enter into partnerships such as
#VisitRwanda initiative with Arsenal Football Club, “to which I am a huge fan,” and electronic world trade platform a collaboration with Alibaba Group to attract more visitors to Rwanda.
These initiatives, he added, will see an unprecedented number of tourists visit our country and Rwandan attractions, which translates into increased tourism revenues, job creation and improved balance of trade.
he said these initiatives will also boost Rwanda’s direct revenue sharing system with communities neighbouring national parks and give residents even more reasons to fully participate in conservation.
“Our close collaboration with conservation partners is contributing to improved knowledge of Rwanda’s biodiversity, a rise in numbers of wildlife and the re-introduction of animals that had disappeared from our parks,” he said.
Kagame also noted said that Rwanda places its parks under professional management. “This is important for sustainability as well as safe and enjoyable experiences for visitors.”
According to Dr. Vincent Biruta, Minister of Environment, a recent study conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Society indicates that the monetary value of total benefits from Nyungwe Park is approximately 4.8 billion dollars. “With this information, we can make better decisions about managing the park.”
“We need to change the incentives for environmental conservation to the government and business sector”, he said, adding that there is need to value natural resources for development. “If you invest in a hydro power plant, its success depends on the health of the surrounding ecosystem. There’s a cost to those ecosystem services and they need to be in the balance sheet.”
Kaddu Sebunya, President, African Wildlife Foundation, who also attended the conference said that, “The value of water is one of most under-valued commodities in the world.”
“Economical and ecological factors in conservation are convergent and not conflicting”, Kaddu Sebunya said.
According to Fred Swaniker, the Founder of African Leadership University said that the conference was useful and important, noting that the conference was “not a talk shop gathering, but a meeting of actors willing to make measurable commitments to conservation.”
President Kagame believes that, “even as we continue working to achieve free movement of persons in Africa, our continent’s wildlife knows no borders. Success in conservation necessarily entails reinforcing regional collaboration.”
He is of the view that the creation of the African Continental Free Trade Area presents a good opportunity to expand this cooperation, as well as raise African leadership on global conservation issues.
“The African conservation agenda should be owned indeed and driven by us. Our people stand to harvest the benefits and it is also our responsibility, Kagame said.
He acknowledged former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa for championing an important pan-African initiative in this regard. “It is something we have always been happy to support and we should all be working to achieve,” he said.
"Donor financing is not enough and comes with a lot of strings attached. Apply business models to the world of conservation i.e. profit management & corporate social responsibility", Richard Vigne, Founder and CEO, @OlPejeta #ALUBCC #ConservationMatters #ConservationPays pic.twitter.com/jn5NQAWVwm
— ALU (@alueducation) October 31, 2018
"If #Africa is to include conservation in its economic transformation, we need to rewrite the rules of business. We need to change the incentives for governments and the private sector so that conservation is understood as the foundation of development." – @Vbiruta #ALUBCC pic.twitter.com/lU69rsTnxC
— Ministry of Environment – Rwanda (@EnvironmentRw) November 1, 2018