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Making Wildlife a Presidential Issue

AWF President Kaddu Sebunya is leading the charge to ensure the continent’s critical natural resources are not forgotten in its march to development.

Since taking on the post of president at the beginning of 2016, Sebunya has crisscrossed the continent to build relationships with influential decision makers—in the process gaining access to high-level discussions on Africa’s development. In July, for example, the AWF president attended the African Union Heads of State meeting in Rwanda and made critical contacts with African leaders, thanks to former Tanzanian President—and AWF Trustee—H.E. Benjamin W. Mkapa.

This past September, Sebunya gave a keynote address to more than 650 companies attending The Global African Investment Summit in Kigali, Rwanda, arguing for businesses to invest sustainably. At the conference, Sebunya also signed an agreement on behalf of AWF with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). The largest trading bloc in Africa, COMESA’s membership comprises not only 20 African states but also most of the major foreign investment companies and countries working in Africa.

Working at scale

Companies negotiate with COMESA as a single entity—meaning that rules surrounding infrastructure and extractive industries apply across all 20 countries. In essence, a single agreement with COMESA allows AWF to work at scale, in 20 countries at once.

“As a COMESA partner, AWF now has access to information about potential projects in the early planning stages,” Sebunya says. “AWF can speak for wildlife and wild lands to make sure that these projects occur in places suitable for development and do not threaten Africa’s rich natural heritage.”

Sebunya adds: “Too often, development decisions are made independent of wildlife and wild lands conservation. Wildlife, however, is very much an economic issue.

“If Africa harvests and trades away its natural resources, our continent will not continue to enjoy robust economic growth. If we raze our forests and develop every last inch of our savannas, our children will inherit a continent with declining air quality, growing water insecurity, depleting food resources, declining tourism and more. By engaging with business leaders and heads of state, AWF is working to elevate conservation to the status of an economic and foreign policy issue in the eyes of governments.”