As we stand on the threshold of a new year, the echoes of our past accomplishments resonate with promise and potential. The challenges we faced in 2023 have only strengthened our resolve to make 2024 a defining chapter in the story of African conservation.
The continent stands at a critical juncture in its conservation journey, and we must hold ourselves accountable for the crucial decisions that will be made in the coming year.
Influencing Global Agendas for Conservation
This new year offers multiple opportunities to put in place strategies that will benefit us all, including multilateral agreements that will continue to define the global biodiversity and climate change agendas. Africa can continue to drive forward a vision of African-led conservation and come to the table with a unified voice, bringing forward solutions that respect our natural heritage and represent real opportunities for people on the ground.
For this to happen in Africa and globally, we need thoughtful leaders and a sound electorate. This is where we can all make a difference. With over 40 countries worldwide holding their elections this year, many of us will have the opportunity to exercise our electoral duty and make our votes count in our respective locations.
Holding Leaders Accountable
Good leadership and fair governance play a pivotal role in the success of conservation efforts, which are largely tied to public and community lands. This makes conservation a complex and multifaceted challenge that requires effective management, strategic planning, and sensitive navigation of various socio-economic and political landscapes.
Africa’s conservation efforts have been at a stalemate for a long time because of the lack of prioritization, commitment, and major investment from governments. The policies to guide implementation exist, but the lack of political will and accountability from our end as the electorate has settled us into this quagmire.
The success of conservation in Africa and our effective response to the twin threats of climate change and biodiversity loss will be contingent upon effective leadership and governance. We must elect leaders who possess the vision, skills, and commitment to understand the complexities of conservation challenges, engage diverse stakeholders, and make decisions that balance ecological health with people’s social and economic needs. Strong leadership can drive positive change.
The transformative potential of effective leadership extends beyond mere rhetoric; it eases the path for organizations like AWF to make significant strides. Through prioritization, commitment, and strategic investments, governments can pave the way for a sustainable future—one where conservation is not just an afterthought but an integral part of policy and governance.
Redefining Africa as a Driver of Progress
With the African Union’s strategic entry into the G20 forum, the continent is poised at a vantage point, ready to influence systemic reforms. The G20 offers an unprecedented opportunity to advocate for equitable financial structures, potentially addressing the imbalances that burden African nations with exorbitant borrowing costs and escalating debt. The goal is clear: Reshape the narrative that paints Africa merely as a continent marred by conflict, famine, and calamity and, instead, highlight its role as a dynamic protagonist in the global arena, driving green growth and opportunity.
Our continent's natural riches are beyond compare. Africa is custodian to the world's second-largest tropical forest, the Congo Basin rainforest, exceeding the Amazon in its contribution to managing climate change. Our rare earth minerals are powering the world’s electric cars and cell phones. We are essential to the global economy, but growth needs to come with a commitment to sustainability, transparent policies, and good governance within supply chains. Importantly, investment in Africa needs to reach communities on the ground.
Africa’s voice in the G20 thus carries the weight of its natural resources and the aspirations of its 54 nations. It's a voice for the wild, for the forests, for the waters, and for the skies—a voice that now, more than ever, needs to resonate through the halls of global power, advocating for sustainable progress and equitable treatment in the international conservation dialogue.
Bringing Conservation as a Solution for Climate Change
Climate change severely threatens people and wildlife in Africa because it impacts ecosystems—changing growing patterns and rainfall, among other things. We felt this especially with the extreme weather in the Horn of Africa in 2023. Millions of people were pushed into food insecurity and billions of dollars were lost.
It won’t end there. By 2050, climate change could cost Africa $50 billion annually, according to the World Meteorological Organization. To effectively meet the challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss, we must integrate solutions. We need to break down the silos that separate conservation funding and climate change funding. We must tie sustainable use of natural resources to national economies, and we must reject carbon-based energy in favor of green alternatives. These interconnected issues require a holistic approach to recognizing the intrinsic link between nature, people, and sustainable development. By integrating conservation efforts with economic growth strategies and climate action plans, Africa can unlock its full potential and become a global leader in sustainable development.
This is why we reiterate that conservation strategies must integrate climate resilience measures. We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect different results; there must be alterations in our approach and tactics, even though the goalpost cannot change. For this to happen, we must unite in harmony and voice. The divide and disparity witnessed across nations in 2023 can only spell impending doom. Remembering that climate change is the adversary and we are the victims of circumstance may hopefully steer us all in one direction.
Strengthening Conservation Through Global Partnerships
Looking ahead, international collaboration emerges as a signal of hope. Conservation knows no borders, and Africa is increasingly recognizing the importance of international collaboration. As the year unfolds, we look forward to increased cooperation between African nations and conservation organizations, other governments, and NGOs. This collaborative approach will, without a doubt, facilitate the sharing of expertise, resources, and best practices, leading to more effective conservation outcomes. By fostering these partnerships, Africa not only gains support but also contributes to a global network of conservation efforts, creating a united front against biodiversity loss.
This new year beckons us to build upon the lessons of the past, forging a path toward a sustainable future for Africa and the planet at large. It is a year that holds the potential for transformative change, where our collective efforts can inscribe a new chapter in the history of African conservation. Let us seize this opportunity, united in purpose, and leave an indelible mark on the path towards a future where people and wildlife thrive.
Happy New Year!
>>Read Kaddu Sebunya's reflections on 2023