Press Release

Kenyan President Ruto Addresses Congressional Luncheon on Conservation and Africa's Future

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On Wednesday, May 22nd, the International Conservation Caucus Foundation (ICCF), in partnership with the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), Conservation International, the Nature Conservancy, and World Wildlife Fund (WWF), hosted His Excellency Dr. William Samoei Ruto, President of the Republic of Kenya, for a luncheon discussion on Capitol Hill with members of the International Conservation Caucus, Oceans Caucus, Climate Solutions Caucus, other members of Congress, and stakeholders from the public and private sectors to discuss conservation and Africa's future.

Long a U.S. ally, Kenya is an important strategic partner in advancing stability and security on the African continent and beyond, as well as partnering with the United States in international endeavors to combat terrorism and promote peace. Kenya is also an important conservation partner, and its community-based wildlife conservancies are a leading model on the continent, holding the promise to pay huge dividends for Kenya's wildlife and for the local people who depend on it.

The United States, through USAID, has been a supporter of Kenya’s wildlife sector since the 1970s and supported the establishment of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) in 1990. USAID, in partnership with KWS, pioneered the community conservancy model — a widely recognized approach to conservation that protects wildlife outside protected areas, expands economic opportunities for communities, and enhances the ability of people and landscapes to withstand drought and other climatic shocks through resilience efforts. This partnership has helped create space for the 65 percent of wildlife outside Kenya’s parks and reserves. Training and mentorship are helping conservancies work towards financial sustainability and are enabling fledgling governance structures to mature.

Speaking of Kenya, and more broadly of Africa, President Ruto pointed to the challenges faced with regard to climate and biodiversity:

"Straight into this year, we have devastating floods. In fact, 280 people have lost their lives in Kenya because of floods, and, on one side of the continent, in Malawi, in Zimbabwe, in Mozambique, there is also a deadly drought going on. . . Climate change is real, and it is damaging our environment. It is destroying our biodiversity. It is destroying livelihoods, infrastructure and driving countries into deep distress."

The President also highlighted Africa’s important role for the future of renewable energy:

“Africa has the largest renewable energy resources,” he said, “Sixty percent of the world’s renewable energy resources are in Africa. Ninety percent of the world’s mineral resources are in Africa including those that are necessary for clean transition. . . Forty percent of the world’s workforce by 2050 will be in Africa. One in every four people by 2050 will live in the African continent. We have sixty percent of the world’s uncultivated arable land. So there are real assets in Africa."

To seize upon the opportunities for conservation, sustainable development, and green growth, he says:

"We need the necessary partnership to be able to achieve that, so that we can manage the effects of climate change, we can reverse biodiversity loss, we can invest in conservation, we can make sure that wetlands, water towers, and other critical environmental areas for us to be able to stop the slide to a catastrophe that is surely coming because of climate change."

Kaddu Sebunya, CEO of the African Wildlife Foundation - headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya and Africa’s oldest and largest pan-African conservation organization protecting wildlife and their habitats as essential parts of a modern and prosperous Africa - also addressed the room, articulating AWF’s unique vision of African-led conservation, focusing on solutions that create opportunity for people:

"Conservation will only succeed in Africa when it is tied tightly to the aspirations of Africans and when it represents opportunity for the 1.5 billion people driving change on the continent."

Senator Chris Coons, co-chair of the International Conservation Caucus and Senate Climate Solutions Caucus, introduced President Ruto at Wednesday’s luncheon, speaking to the ongoing partnership between the U.S. and Kenya on people-centered conservation, as well as opportunities for future collaboration. Highlighting the U.S. Foundation for International Conservation Act, which he introduced in the Senate, Senator Coons said:

"It already has 200 million dollars pledged to it, and it is our hope that it will, in the next year, be a vehicle for delivering literally billions of dollars of finance to help accelerate the leadership that you have shown, Mr. President, in conservancies and conservation."

AWF’s Sebunya thanked members of the Congressional International Conservation Caucus for their tremendous leadership to support conservation, particularly championing efforts such as the U.S. Foundation for International Conservation. He also stressed the opportunity to be innovative and ensure that the renewal and extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) includes wildlife economies.

ICCF, African Wildlife Foundation