The Business of Wildlife Conservation

Image credits: David Berkowitz

Image credits: David Berkowitz

Evidently, one of Africa’s greatest assets in the 21st century is its wildlife and natural resources. In order to maximize its rich endowments, the continent’s own leaders need to put in the necessary measures to spearhead its conservation ethics. With such an abundance of wildlife in Africa, and considering the contributions that wildlife has made to the overall prosperity and development of nations in the continent, the business of conservation should be everyone’s business.

In Africa, wildlife over the last couple of years have played an instrumental role in preserving both ecosystems and national economies. The Mau Forest, for example, contributes some US$1.3 billion to the Kenyan economy yearly according to the United Nations Environment Program. In Africa, Ecotourism forms a significant component of the economies of most countries. The conservation of wildlife on the continent has been widely linked to the growing importance of ecotourism for the continent. Wildlife watching tourism is one of the main tourism products for most African countries and an essential contributor to the continent’s socio-economic development. Many tourists enjoy the opportunity to watch the bewildering diversity of African animals living in natural habitats, making wildlife tourism a vital source of foreign exchange earnings.

In Sub Saharan Africa, an estimated US$143 million is generated from entry fees alone at these wildlife reserves. On average, a typical wildlife tour costs around US$400, in addition to a US$50 non - reimbursable fee per individual. The majority of these tourists are from the USA and UK; however, the number of visitors from Asian countries is steadily growing.

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the overall contribution of tourism to sub-Saharan Africa’s economy is important and growing. The construction of hotels for instance constituted about 6% of the total jobs created almost 15 million and this figure is expected to grow by 4% by 2027. This data show good evidence of how wildlife conservation has been benefits to the economies of Africa.

Globally wildlife tourism has an estimated market size of about 12 million trips each year. Africa constitutes for around one half of these figures, with the main destinations being  South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania and Botswana.

Wildlife tourism exists in many Sub Saharan African countries and as such fast tracks their socio - economic development by serving as a means for economic growth, the creation of jobs and the alleviation of poverty. This shows it is important for governments, organizations and individuals to invest in the preservation of this industry.  In countries like Tanzania, wildlife tourism continues to be the main tourism activity in the country, accounting for 44% of all visitors.  In South Africa, wildlife tourism employs about 70,000 workers. Also, the conservation of mountain gorillas in Rwanda, which is one of the favorite travel destinations in Africa, generates millions of dollars for the government according to the World’s Travel and Tour Council. It is even helping shift Rwanda’s international image; having experienced genocide in the 1990s, it is now considered as one of the safest travel destinations in East Africa. Most tourists and visitors who visit the country can attest to the hospitality of its people, the cleanliness of its cities, and its burgeoning tourism industry.

In light of this, it can be said that wildlife conservation is crucial and brings vast economic benefits to African nations. To fully take advantage of this sector, although there has been tremendous investment from the Western world towards the conservation of wildlife in Africa, it is essential that indigenous governments, businesses, and individuals also invest in the sector to find more sustainable management methods and sustainable approaches towards the conservation of wildlife in Africa.