Strategic Vision 2020-2030

Africa is at a crossroads. Its population is growing exponentially — it is predicted there will be 2.5 billion people living on the continent by 2050. The need for additional infrastructure, as well as more land for agriculture and human settlement, is real. What areas of Africa should be protected and which ones will be traded off for development? What is the role of wildlife and wild lands in Africa’s development? The future of these unique continental natural resources is directly tied to decisions Africans are currently making about economic development and population ascendency.

It is the African Wildlife Foundation’s belief that if Africa does not quickly and directly tackle issues surrounding conservation and development — while the continent is still in these formative stages of economic development — then the potential positive socioeconomic, political, and environmental gains, could be short-lived. The outcome of the discussion about whether to link conservation and development or not will determine what will be left of wildlife and the wild lands on the continent.

The rapid changes impacting modern Africa dictate that AWF must focus and redefine our vision, evolve strategic approaches, and adapt purposeful African ownership to deliver sustainable conservation impacts.

In AWF’s new ten-year strategic vision, we hope to change the debate, proposing that African governments do not have to choose conservation over development or vice versa. This is a false choice. The correct question is how to embrace the future and create an Africa that makes wildlife and wild lands the centerpiece of sustainable development — recognizing their unique and inherent value.

As we begin implementation of this vision and address the challenges of the new mission, we are keenly aware that the most crucial factor in AWF’s work is people: our staff, trustees, donors, and our partners — governments, communities, youth, private sector, and institutional that are working toward a more sustainable Africa. Without them our grand vision, strategic plans, and work on the ground wouldn’t be possible. We thank each of you and going forward, we will continue working together to strengthen AWF via this game-changing vision that prioritizes Africa’s wildlife, the people of Africa and their future, as well as the policies that govern them.

This fight is ours to win.

Development is inevitable.
Unsustainable development is not.


The African continent is dynamic, growing, and young.

Africa has evolved into a dynamic and rapidly growing continent. A deep understanding of and connection with the aspirations and mindsets driving change on the continent is essential for success in achieving our mission of ensuring wildlife and wild lands thrive in modern Africa.

The 1990’s witnessed the emergence of a “modern Africa” narrative that challenges the dominant colonial and post-colonial narrative of hopelessness and dependency. Growing confidence across the continent described by many as “Africa rising” is transforming African nations into some of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Investments in innovation, education, and healthcare have slowed the ravages of diseases. Fewer children are dying and Africans are living longer. Millions are enrolling in schools and the number of Africans pursuing higher education degrees more than doubled between 2000 and 2010.

This transformation is not happening accidentally. Around the continent, African governments are putting in place policies to ensure that economic growth continues. Remarkable progress is being made, but much of this growth is occurring without proper consideration of Africa’s natural resources.

As prosperity spreads across the continent, Africa will put a greater demand on its natural resource base. The business-as-usual scenarios guiding growth at the moment will put people and wildlife in greater competition. Under these scenarios, land becomes degraded and less productive, people impoverished, and ultimately both people and wildlife will suffer.

A more positive future for Africa’s wildlife, wild lands, and people hinges on how leaders on the continent, at all levels, and Africa’s development partners respond to these challenges.

A false choice between development and conservation.

Africa’s economic and population growth is already coming with a high ecological cost. Whereas leaders are taking many of the right steps to attract financial capital, oftentimes they are more careless about preserving Africa’s natural capital. Poorly planned agriculture, settlements, infrastructure development, and resource extraction are driving degradation of forests, rivers, and grasslands. The resulting habitat loss and fragmentation threaten the ecosystem goods and services upon which people and wildlife both depend. Without adequate training, technical support, and empowerment, African leaders risk decisions that rank short-term benefits above long-term growth.

Developing this way is a choice. From a household level to the statehouses, many believe that the transformation in Africa will inevitably come at the cost of wildlife and wild lands, perhaps that it even should.

In fact, the opposite is true, the services that are being lost underpin human well-being, political stability, and the continued economic prosperity that African leaders desire.

Growing international wildlife trade.

The world’s economies in 2019 are more connected than they have ever been. While this connectivity brings benefits in terms of investment, access to information, and the possibility to connect to global markets, it also has a cost, particularly for the environment. Never has this been more apparent than today, as we fight the human, economic, and ecological impacts of COVID-19.

Global demand for illegal wildlife products has decimated Africa’s wildlife populations. From ivory to rhino horn, pangolin scales, lion bone, and more, Africa is being robbed of its wildlife resources by international criminals servicing the demand of a global black market. The role this trade plays in undermining good governance and funding violent conflict is well documented.

The poaching crisis puts into clear focus why one cannot separate conservation and development. There are three variables that enter into the calculation of wildlife trade on the supply side — the reward, the punishment, and the likelihood of being caught and penalized.

To do the actual poaching, crime syndicates recruit local people who have few alternatives, leading vulnerable rural Africans to take the greatest risk in return for the smallest portion of the illicitly won reward. The willingness of communities to cooperate with crime syndicates and of government officials to ignore wildlife crime is related to their own connections to wildlife and wild lands and also to their economic situations — both as households and nations.

Sustainable allocation of land and resources.

The largest and most serious long-term threat to wildlife in Africa is habitat loss and fragmentation. The result is a steady decline in the space available for wildlife and increasing pressure on places set aside for conservation. This trend threatens Africa’s iconic species and the resilience of the fabric of living systems, degrading important ecosystem goods and services, thus jeopardizing Africa’s economic development and human well being. In an increasingly urban Africa, people are more and more detached from nature; hence they value protected areas less. There is an urgent need to shift the perceived value of nature in the minds of urban and rural communities, African leaders, and especially youth. If wildlife and wild lands are to thrive, then they must be interwoven into the positive narrative of growth on the continent.

The wildlife in Africa is an incredible resource that can provide greater economic and social opportunities while promoting ecological integrity and resilience. In many areas, wildlife offers far greater viability for custodians of the land than livestock, which is rapidly encroaching into wildlife habitat across the continent. Wildlife has greater resilience to drought and disease and offers a wider range of potential enterprises that can be developed with associated employment opportunities. Wildlife can also sustainably carry more biomass per unit area than livestock, due to the range of ecological niches occupied. Where appropriate and with the right support.

Wildlife can be the center of competitive land use that has much greater economic and social benefits than livestock. Through the development of conservancies and other wildlife-based activities, communities can diversify their economies and become more resilient to climate change. The result would be an Africa where wildlife is viewed as one of its most unique and greatest assets.

A proven history of success provides a strong foundation for the future.

AWF CEO Kaddu Sebunya

African Wildlife Foundation is a citizen of Africa.

Created in 1961, in the spirit of Africa’s independence movement, AWF has always focused solely on conservation in Africa. From initial investments in Africa’s wildlife colleges that trained today’s cadre of protected-area managers and wildlife authority directors, AWF has backed African capacity and leadership for conservation for almost six decades. AWF’s approach to supporting priority landscapes is to build the capacity of local institutions to take on roles and responsibilities to deliver conservation.

The ownership of conservation must be with the people who ultimately bear the costs and reap the benefits of the action, meaning the communities, protected-area authorities, and national governments who hold rights over the resource base. AWF works in service of these decision-makers and our credibility as a citizen of Africa is key.

African governments are far more likely to listen to an African organization. Likewise, governments and private-sector entities all over the world are seeking new approaches and a different style of partnership with Africa.

Our voice is a voice for Africa.

Our mission requires us to assist the governments and people of Africa to navigate the continuing economic transition with a significant and representative patrimony of wildlife and wild places intact.

We are uniquely positioned and qualified to help articulate, describe, and promulgate a vision for the future of Africa in which wildlife coexists with modern cities, productive farmlands, expanded infrastructure, rural areas, and manufacturing. We have a repertoire of processes, tools, approaches, and practical experiences built through decades of implementation that shows how conservation and development can be delivered together.

Many of AWF’s most successful programs embrace and promote Africa’s progress. As we are going forward, we work in partnership with those who would create a prosperous future — not at the expense of wildlife and wild lands, but because of them.

Our mission, vision, and values for African conservation.

Nairobi National Park

AWF Mission
AWF Vission
AWF Values

Giraffes on road

AWF is uniquely positioned to develop pragmatic, lasting conservation solutions for the African continent.

Our vision implores us to make good and hard choices about the models that are most likely to achieve a desirable future for Africa’s people and wildlife. It is especially important that AWF and our collaborators invest at the interface of Africa where wildlife and wild lands intersect with human activities and settlements.

AWF is uniquely positioned in the conservation landscape on the continent. AWF has found a valuable niche — and one that it can uniquely lead in with authenticity — encompassing the combination of:

  • Taking an in-situ approach that serves the conservation and development goals of individual African countries.
  • Providing and elevating African voices for wildlife and wild lands both on the continent and abroad; while also
  • Offering a global presence and perspective.


To achieve our vision, we approach our work in line with six overarching principles.

  • We are the voice of African wildlife: We serve as the primary advocate for Africa’s wildlife, ensuring its right to exist in modern Africa, and promoting that it will play an integral role in Africa’s overall success.
  • We believe in African leadership and integrity: We are most successful when our results are owned and carried forward by others; thus in partnerships, we develop conservation solutions that emphasize African capacity and leadership.
  • We recognize and empower youth and women: Our work will only be sustainable if future generations subscribe to our mission.
  • We promote prosperity: We are holistic and pragmatic, creating sustainable conservation gains that preserve wildlife habitat while directly benefiting people living in and near wildlife areas.
  • We value innovation and technology mechanisms: Mechanisms that can scale up our work and impact and digital technologies that can create new experiences by more directly connecting people to wildlands and wildlife.
  • We commit to respect, protect and promote human rights: At all times irrespective of gender, race, sexual orientation, age, or class, AWF will adopt a rights-based conservation approach.


The threats are dire, but AWF has the vision to tackle them.

Empowering African ownership and stewardship of wildlife and wild lands: All major threats to wildlife conservation in Africa are ultimately driven by a false choice between people and wildlife, resulting in a lack of prioritization of conservation and wildlife in decision-making at all levels. For conservation to succeed in Africa, it must be owned and led by African leaders.

Investing in efficient, planned, and sustainable utilization of land and natural resources: The most serious long-term threat to wildlife in Africa is habitat loss and fragmentation. As a result of Africa’s population and economic growth alongside widespread rural poverty and increasing global demand, African governments face significant pressure to allocate more and more land for agriculture, livestock, human settlement, resource extraction, and infrastructure. Additionally, most of Africa’s protected areas are dramatically underfunded and/or poorly managed. This threatens Africa’s iconic species and puts at risk Africa’s economic development and human wellbeing by degrading important ecosystem goods and services.

Shutting down the illegal wildlife trade: Africa’s iconic species, especially elephant, lion, rhino, giraffe, and pangolin, are severely threatened by poaching, which is occurring at an alarming and biologically unsustainable rate. This epidemic is fueled by international demand for wildlife products, exploited by international crime syndicates, and facilitated by the underlying issues of poverty, corruption, and weak enforcement mechanisms within Africa.

Building influence of the African constituency for conservation: Although Africa has set aside large areas to protect wildlife and while many Africans love and respect nature with examples of successful grassroots environmental campaigns around the continent, there is not yet a broad affinity for conservation on the continent. This condition is being exacerbated by the broad trend toward urbanization, furthering a generalized disconnect from nature for everyday Africans. Without an African conservation movement, international efforts to conserve wildlife in Africa are doomed to fail in the long-run.

NPR Event

AWF’s core strategies to achieve our vision

There are a number of core strategy types that supplement our values and highlight AWF’s strengths and will be applied, where relevant, to achieve our vision and its goals and objectives.

  • We build African capacity and leadership. This strategy includes AWF’s core work in training, enterprise development, and capacity building for our relevant target audiences in each landscape.
  • We employ cutting edge research and thought leadership.We seek to establish wildlife as competitive land use and use AWF’s platform to document what works, what does not and why.
  • We amplify African voices for conservation. We will build from AWF’s communications, networking, and leadership strengths to amplify African voices.
  • We promote entrepreneurial conservation and innovative technology enterprises. Through regional private sector, entrepreneurial, or emerging technology partners, we will be able to provide access to or develop projects that support African leadership, community development opportunities, women and youth in conservation enterprises.
  • We invest in children and youth. Before we can build the next generation of leaders, we need to ensure that children are inspired and engaged in our work. Through Classroom Africa and partnering with existing wildlife clubs we will support the existing education system in bringing wildlife, wildlands, and development knowledge to primary school children.
  • We develop sustainable land-use plans with communities. Bringing the right people together for mutually beneficial results is core to this strategy. Through engagement with government agencies responsible for development and land use planning, we will offer support and ensure AWF is included in the planning process to bring the best option for wildlife and development.
  • We work with governments and global leaders. We engage government agencies through bilateral meetings and public sessions to prioritize opportunities, concerns, and challenges in creating revenue and viability from wildlife-based activities.
  • We support protected areas management. Support conducive policy through technical support to policymakers, develop viable context-specific conservancy models. We assist governments with species-action planning and implementation. This strategy forms the core of our species-specific work and ensures that species plans and strategies are based on the best available science and are integrated with regional development.
  • We are fighting the illegal wildlife trade. We are dedicated to ending wildlife trade. AWF’s strategy is focused on each stage of wildlife trafficking, from decreasing the opportunities for wildlife trafficking through improving detection and increasing prosecutorial capacity, to reducing demand in target countries.

Our 10-Year goals to achieve our vision

Theory of Change

Goal 1

Africa’s leaders' commitment to conserve and restore wildlife and wildlands is evidenced in the implementation of economic, political, and social agendas as well as development financing across Africa.

Since our founding in 1961, AWF has always understood the importance of African-led conservation. While the global community has an interest in preserving Africa’s natural heritage, Africa’s wildlife is ultimately owned by Africans and thus the responsibility of Africa. The mounting pressures on wildlife and wild lands posed by Africa’s accelerating growth necessitates an investment from the public African conservation practitioners, political and economic leaders, and others. AWF is committed to sensitizing, educating, and mobilizing African leadership on all fronts.

Goal 2

Africa’s ecosystems and the services they provide are conserved and restored.

Placing economic development and environmental conservation as an either/or option is a false choice. Functional, healthy ecosystems are critical for the long-term stability and prosperity of the continent. Negative development outcomes are driven not by a lack of options but by a failure to invest in the hard decisions around land and natural resource use planning and negotiated trade-offs. To address the issue of habitat loss, AWF will continue to focus on large landscape (Heartlands) participatory conservation planning, working with governments, communities, public-sector partners, development NGOs, and the private sector to facilitate investments and promote policy and economic planning that both promote wildlife as a competitive land use while reinforcing African-led protection of Africa’s wildlife and wild lands.

Goal 3

Africa’s wildlife is conserved in situ.

Poachers and international criminal networks engaged in the illegal trade of wildlife products are robbing Africa of its priceless natural heritage. It is a collective responsibility of the world to support and empower Africa’s relevant law enforcement bodies to combat this scourge. In cases of the highest biological threat, AWF will continue to invest in direct activities that address the reduction of demand for Africa’s wildlife, and on-the-ground anti-poaching activities with a strong bias toward capacity enhancements to Africa’s own wildlife protection forces.

African Wild Dogs

Together, we can make this vision a reality

We cannot achieve this vision without the support of global governments, partners, donors, and engaged citizens across the world.

Please join us as a partner.