The current world population is 7.9 billion as of January 2022 according to the most recent United Nations estimates elaborated by Worldometer. Seventeen per cent, or 1.3 billion of those people live in Africa, while the vast majority of 4.4 billion, or 60% are in Asia. But surprisingly, the world’s human population account for just 0.01% of all living things.
Be that as it may, we humans – the most intelligent species on earth, have over the years proven to be incapable of protecting our existence on earth. Infact, our remarkable ability to self-destruct is one of the most inexplicable yet enduring paradoxes of our life today.
Unfortunately, the way we have been managing our only home, this planet – is sinking us beyond our limits of survival. This is because of our creations – that are altering and impacting wildland and wildlife that is so critical for our needs and health.
While this information may be alarming to many, unknown to the majority is that we still have a fighting chance to save this generation and ensure our many more come after us.
All we need is a strand of hope.
On this strand of hope, stands our beautiful continent: Africa.
Yes, you read correctly, Africa holds the key to saving the world, humanity, and biodiversity in general.
Of the wildlife left on this planet, Africa is home to a wide variety of habitats—nine of fourteen vegetation types identified globally are in Africa.
Africa has the second largest tropical forest after the Amazon. We sustain some of the last major mammal migrations patterns on earth. Of 24 current of historic large mammal migration species and subspecies, 14 are in Africa and 9 of those persist in 6 landscapes.
However, this richness is no reason for complacency.
With population growth, increased demand for land, increasingly unsustainable natural resource use and extraction, and inadequate environmental governance, our dear motherland stands to lose a significant proportion of its biodiversity value in the immediate future
Although it is true that many species and populations live outside protected areas, and some wildlife populations and natural communities declining even when protected, well-managed protected areas continue to be the most effective method to safeguard our biodiversity.
They are still the backbone of biodiversity on the continent.
But many are underfunded, inadequately managed, and unable to meet their conservation and development targets.
It is, therefore, critical that the African’s protected area systems be supported to maximize the operational effectiveness in managing their estate and improve associated financial inflows, utilization, and allocations.
Evidently, our current model is not working and that we must embrace new conservation strategies to shift our current perspective.
We all know by now that effective protected area management depends on many factors, including legal status, clear management and conservation objectives, the type of governance, human resources, budgets, legislation (including political will), the ecological and socio-economic context, human skills and available equipment and funding that are crucial for success.
It is based on this premise of a brighter future for Africa and the world at large that we should aim to address and forge surmountable working formulae for our global success at existence.
Because that is exactly what it is.
A fight for existence.
Currently as it stands, Africa’s 8500 protected areas cover 14.1% of African terrestrial areas and 17.1% of its marine area.
Therefore, to conserve this biodiversity and ensure we have a shot at seeing the next four decades – to achieve the various goals, set out towards this congress success and even our goals as conservation organizations – African leadership should be at the centre.
The ability of leadership at all levels to be discerning and empowered is critical in shaping decisions that will affect Africa’s future and deliberately foster dialogues that build and empower the current and the next generation of leaders to realize an African future where biodiversity is valued as an asset that contributes to development.
Most importantly, the underlying drivers of biodiversity loss need to be understood and addressed in practical ways, and the global post-COVID-19 economy needs to reflect the reality that our lives and economies depend on nature.
Therefore, Africa must show up and rise in a united voice of reason towards achieving conservation success.
If we do not take up the responsibility and mantle now, we may never have such a chance.
The writer is the CEO, African Wildlife Foundation