For the first time in history, African conservation and business leaders have a platform through which they can discuss matters of common interest. This follows the launch at the end of August of the Leadership for Conservation in Africa (LCA) after days of deliberations involving local and international business leaders and delegates from more than a dozen African countries, including South Africa.
The LCA brought together representatives from 15 countries across the continent and business leaders from all over the world. The World Conservation Union (IUCN) supported the meeting as a founding patron and Gold Fields Limited as the funding patron.
Discussions on the founding of the LCA began at Skukuza camp in the Kruger National Park (KNP) on Wednesday, August 23 with a pre-conference meeting of the Africa delegates. It ended in the Pafuri area of the park where both the business leaders and the Africa delegates met to map the way forward.
Both the business and Africa delegates agreed at the end of the meeting to set up an inter-disciplinary structure to oversee the implementation of the objectives of the LCA. This structure comprises the leadership council on which all participating countries and businesses are represented and a board of directors.
The leadership council is the highest decision making body of the LCA and is responsible for determining policy and the direction of the LCA. The leadership council will also provide oversight over the work of the LCA and appoint the board of directors.
Dr David Mabunda, chief executive of South African National Parks (Sanparks), and the driving force behind the LCA, was elected as president of the leadership council of the LCA while Ian Cockerill, chief executive officer of Gold Fields, was elected as chairman of the board.
Other board members include Howard Buffet, chairman of The Buffet Foundation; Sabina Plattner, of the Fancourt Foundation; Dr James Morumbedzi, IUCN Regional Director: Southern Africa; Moses Mapesa, of Uganda; Dr Gabriel Tchatat, of Cameroon; and Glenn Phillips, of Sanparks. Chris Marais of Sanparks will be seconded to the LCA by Sanparks as acting co-ordinator and CEO of the LCA.
Mabunda said the essence of the gathering was to look at conservation-led development and how business leaders could assist with capacity building in terms of the broader economic and social environment within which conservation operated. This time around we did not go to business with a begging bowl.
We created a platform and an opportunity for ourselves as conservation managers to share experiences with business on the broader management; financial management; capacity building and skills development issues in conservation areas, in order to glean best practices in this regard for the benefit of broader conservation- led development, he said.
Cockerill said, The LCA is the most exciting new development in the world of conservation and I look forward to working closely with Dr Mabunda to give structure and substance to his vision for the LCA.
The time has come for conservation and business to work together for the benefit of Africa as a whole. We can and will make a difference. Broadly, the vision of the LCA encompasses the creation of a sustainable partnership of influential, credible and committed business and conservation leaders to significantly advance conservation-led development in Africa.
We must form long-term partnerships between business and conservation, said Mabunda. He said conservation agencies in Africa share many problems and the LCA will ensure a mechanism where technical and knowledge transfer can be ensured.
The LCA aims to facilitate a formal process for the sharing and development of knowledge, skills and capacity between conservation bodies and business, for the benefit of conservation on the continent. Among the challenges identified by African c,onservation leaders present at this founding workshop, were the lack in parts of Africa of an enabling legislative and administrative environment in which business and conservation-led development could prosper; as well as inadequate human resources capacity; business and management skills; and operating standards.
The conservation community was represented by senior representatives of the conservation authorities from Malawi, Zambia, Ghana, Uganda, Cameroon, Senegal, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Congo Republic and Ethiopia, as well as representatives of conservation NGOs such as the IUCN, the Endangered Wildlife Trust and the Peace Parks Foundation.
The business leaders included, amongst others, senior representatives from companies and donor organisations such as Gold Fields, SASOL, De Beers, Mittal Steel, the Buffet Foundation; the Fancourt Foundation; The Getty Conservation Institute, Southern Cross Foundation, ABN AMRO Bank, City Lodge and Wilderness Safaris.