1. wildlife and wild lands, as critical to the

Agenda 2063, under Aspiration 1 ‘A prosperous Africa based on
inclusive growth and sustainable development’, emphasizes the importance
of the environment and ecosystems, including wildlife and wild
lands, as critical to the overall prosperity and development of the
continent. The environment directly supports the livelihoods of most
Africans, with a large proportion of the continent’s population being
dependent on subsistence agriculture, untreated water, wood energy, and
building materials sourced from the environment. Conservation of wildlife has
also global benefits, leading to the enactment of various international
instruments, including the United Nations Convention on Biological
Diversity, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild
Fauna and Flora and the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals. 


Africa’s rapid economic growth, leading to higher
standards of living and a reduction in the percentage of people living in
absolute poverty, is widely reported. Less widely reported or
acknowledged is the fact that over the past 20
years, the continent has experienced devastating losses of its unique
wildlife heritage. For example, Lions, that were once numbering 50,000
continent-wide around 2005, are now estimated at closer to 23,000.
 Africa’s elephants, which numbered 1.3 million in 1970, dropped to around
600,000 in 2005 – due to poaching pressure, their numbers are
now estimated at around 470,000. Of Africa’s five subspecies of rhinos,
one has been declared extinct in the last two years. As Africa has grown,
its ecological resource base, on which future generations depend, is being

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Losses in species diversity and richness of natural
resources, ecosystem functioning and services will have an adverse
impact on the efforts to achieve sustainable development. Against
this backdrop, renewed efforts for the conservation of Africa’s
wildlife and wild lands is crucial. With a clear agenda, Africa can both
develop economically and conserve its key wildlife and wild lands. 


Global security is not a topic that comes immediately
to mind when speaking of conservation, but there are common underlying threats
to security and to biodiversity. Heavily armed, interconnected, and funded
syndicates of traffickers operate across a range of illicit
markets, including illegal arms, human trafficking, and wildlife products.
The agenda for strengthening security and protecting biodiversity is shared.
Additionally, there is mounting evidence that resource conflicts resulting from
ecological degradation is an underlying driver of peace and security
challenges, particularly in the case of water and land resources and in the
context of Transboundary systems. Linked to this is the evident impact of
erosion of these natural resources on migration.


At its 27th Ordinary Session, in
June 2015, in Johannesburg, South Africa, the Executive Council
adopted decision EX.CL/Dec.879 (XXVII), through which
it endorsed the African Strategy on Combating Illegal Exploitation and
Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora and called upon Member States and
African Union partners to support and facilitate its
implementation. The African Common Strategy aims to
prevent, reduce and eventually eliminate illegal trade in wild flora and fauna
through a coordinated response by all countries. As a follow-up,
the Commission developed, in September 2017, a monitoring
framework for the implementation of the Strategy. Steps have also been
taken to popularize this Strategy, while a Memorandum of
Understanding was concluded with the African Wildlife Fund (AWF)
to support its implementation. 


These efforts need to be scaled up. In the period
ahead, I intend to enhance coordination among all concerned entities within the
African Union system to ensure the effective implementation of
the Strategy. The Commission will also reach out to Member States to
increase awareness and assist national efforts to protect wildlife and wild
lands. Furthermore, the Commission will proactively engage international
partners, both bilaterally and within the framework of
multilateral fora, to champion a development
agenda having conservation at its core. In a nutshell, the
Commission will endeavour to inspire, educate, and empower investors and
development partners with options that provide safeguards for sustainable
investment decisions.