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New AWF Center to Aid Wildlife Businesses

  • Thursday, October 1, 1998

AWF has launched a new program designed to help African wildlife businesses become more profitable while improving their impact on conservation.

"For reasons that are not always clear," says Joanna Elliott, head of AWF's Conservation, Economics and Commerce (CEC) program, "a lot of small wildlife businesses in eastern and southern Africa are not performing terribly well commercially. We'd like to find out why, and identify the best ways to help." Deriving financial benefit from the wildlife on their lands is a key incentive for African communities to protect the animals and their habitats. Moreover, wildlife-related businesses--such as tourism, sports hunting, regulated cropping of wildlife for commercial sale and wildlife farming--are essential to the economies of many African countries. Tourism alone in Kenya accounts for about 5 percent of the gross domestic product. Yet many wildlife businesses are failing to fulfill their commercial potential. With seed money from The Summit Foundation, CEC opened the Wildlife Enterprise Business Services Center (WEBS)in Nairobi last May. In the early phase WEBS is tracking some businesses to learn what makes the difference between underperformance and success.

After extensive talks with wildlife business managers, community representatives, landowners, financiers, government officials and conservationists, WEBS has already pinpointed some common problems: the volatility of certain markets (such as tourism); the lack of access to market information and affordable business services; inadequate management and marketing experience; insufficient investment capital; and limited ability to measure the effects of wildlife businesses on conservation. The center will initially offer its services in Kenya, eventually expanding to help enterprises in eastern and southern Africa. Elliott has recruited Ugandan economist George M. Sikoyo as program officer and Richard Young, a South African trained and experienced in natural-resource and business management, as the center's business manager.

WEBS is modeled after AWF's Community Conservation Service Center in Tanzania, a widely praised program begun in 1996 to assist those involved in community conservation in Africa.

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