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Three former African Heads of State lead new Rwanda Conservation Conference

The Rwanda government has picked three former African heads of state have been selected to lead the inaugural upcoming international conservation conference to be held in Kigali early in March this year.

Reports from the Ministry of Environment of Rwanda indicate that the government of Rwanda has picked then requested three African Heads of State to lead the inaugural session of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC) conference slated to take place in Kigali from March 7 to 12 this year.

Selected former African leaders are the former Prime Minister for Ethiopia Mr. Hailemariam Desalegn,  the former President Niger Mr. Issoufou Mahamadou, and former President of Botswana Mr. Festus Mogae.

Taking place in Africa for the first time, the summit will be convened by the IUCN, the Government of Rwanda, and the Africa Wildlife Foundation AWF). The summit will be held at a critical time when Africa needs more than US $700 billion for the conservation and protection of its biodiversity.

The conference (summit) is expected to enhance the status of conservation in Africa by engaging governments, the private sector, civil society, indigenous peoples, and local communities then the academia to shape Africa’s agenda for protected and conserved areas, Rwanda’s Ministry of Environment said in a statement.

Former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn is expected to discuss a path that balances economic growth with the conservation of Africa’s natural capital.

“This will need to be done through strategic choices and investments driven by the best available knowledge and long-term thinking,” Desalegn said.

Rwanda’s Minister of Environment, Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya said that this has come at the right time though there is still a way to go.

“The APAC comes at a time when there is growing global attention on our strained relationship with nature but we are not investing enough in the natural systems we depend on,” she said.

She said in her statement that Africa spends less than 10 percent of what is needed to protect and restore nature.

“Protected areas must have access to the financing required for effective management and thus fulfill their role in providing essential biodiversity protection and ecosystem services for people and development,” she noted.

Mahamadou, one of the conference leaders, said that the ability of leadership should shape decisions that will affect Africa’s future.

“APAC seeks to 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,” he said.

He added that the inaugural congress is intended to change the face of conservation and spearhead climate change mitigation efforts on a large scale.

Mogae, the congress leader, reaffirmed that APAC must be a turning point for the relationship between the global community and African institutions.

“As Africans, we recognize the pivotal role the global community and international organizations have played over the last 60 years. It is necessary for African communities and institutions to be actively involved in the conservation agenda for ownership and integration within the aspirations and vision for the Africa we want,” he said.

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Apolinari Tairo - eTN Tanzania

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