A New Pitch For Africa’s Natural Capital: Innovative Financing For The Continent’s Biodiversity Protection

In a guest blog, Tusk Trustee Beatrice Karanja explores the role that African investment should play in driving green growth across the continent.

Africa’s natural capital and biodiversity are its greatest assets.

These assets are the anchor of our growth, our sustainability and our future, but are yet to be intentionally applied to the core of our economic and social development aspirations and goals as a continent.

In a report released by Green Value on the importance of Africa’s protected natural assets and conservation areas for prosperous and resilient societies, it is stated that “at least ¼ of total national protected land area shows signs of degradation, while 40 out of the 50 largest reservoirs in Africa receive their water partly from conservation areas.”

All around the world today, discussions centre around a process of reimagining the future and rethinking our interactions, not only with each other, but also with our natural world. Our fragility and resilience hanging on the same edge.

Africa is rich – above and below ground. We have a median age of 19.5 years. It is estimated that continent contains an estimated one-fifth of all known species of mammals, birds, and plants and it has been observed that Africa will be the future economic growth engine of the world.

The continent’s prosperity and resilience depends on its vast natural health and properly functioning ecosystems. But our protected natural capital stocks are dwindling rapidly, climate migration is on the rise, biodiversity is being lost. While these trends continue to intensify, it is possible to reverse the tide. For geo-political relations, global trade, society, infrastructure development and environmental stewardship, it should no longer business as usual.

As we navigate the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and reinvent new ways of being, what lessons are we taking forward that will ensure participatory, engaged, relevant and viable future investments are front and centre to any future planning?

Later this year, I will be launching Nature’s Pitch – a financing hub to support zero-to-small socially inclusive, environmentally conscious enterprises which have the potential to generate biodiversity impact and uplift livelihoods. The hub, which will be primarily African financed, aims to bring together the continent’s collective will, financial legends and a bedrock of natural capital change makers who together can harness Africa’s vast natural resources to finance its development agenda and steward the continent towards greater prosperity.

Nature’s Pitch is borne from a strong belief that to ensure that future growth, protection and utilization of our natural resources are sustained, our natural capital needs to be financially championed and supported by Africans and the business of nature takes precedence.

Africa’s natural capital and how its value is harnessed at all levels across the continent could just be the gateway to a stronger financial future for Africa’s development needs, as well as the seed of private investment and philanthropy towards Africa’s future biodiversity aspirations.

Biodiversity has always played a critical role in human development and wellbeing in Africa. By providing food, health, water supply and many other services, it constitutes the engine for socioeconomic development. As a matter of fact, most African economies are largely dependent on their natural resources such as agricultural lands, forests, water resources, ecosystems and ecosystem services.

Connecting private and commercial investments with socially inclusive businesses which are mitigating negative impacts on the environment can only maximize conservation impact and economic growth in Africa.

A genuine attempt to foster partnerships and collaboration between the two can accelerate the metamorphosis of African corporate social responsibility from just that to something that resembles community and corporate joint equity.

With a keener acknowledgment of the continent as the next emerging green market, a global green growth drive steered by African financing and African investors is the next phase of our business and conservation models.

While it is common now to see many governments on the continent exploring new finance models including carbon credits, ecosystem financing and others to address development goals, these must be scaled and served primarily by financing from within the continent.

Establishing African-owned, driven and supported systems that employ innovative financing models geared toward protecting our natural capital needs to be fast-tracked.

With African corporates, investors and capital growth experts intentionally reviewing how to incorporate and integrate the dependency and impact on our planet’s resources into their decision making, future investments can help encourage further inclusive and sustainable growth that will support rural communities’ ability to increase their access to economic and livelihood opportunities.

Recognizing this gap, from late February to early March, Tusk is hosting its biennial Tusk Symposium in Kenya. The symposium brings together over 40 of Tusk’s partners from all over Africa and will explore with African corporates, economists and investors, how to work better at the business of conservation. The most important discussion will be around examining the role of African funding in driving the next phase of conservation efforts and leading the charge in the continent’s green growth. 

The blueprint for this new chapter of African biodiversity lies in how we choose to co-exist with the natural world. The natural ecosystems that the world depends on are not infinite resources and can only withstand so much interference/loss. Shifting the needle on the continent’s investment priorities and launching African green investment vehicles that ultimately protect the our biodiversity markets is a win-win situation for all.

As such it is our responsibility as citizens of this very rich continent to ensure that nature’s ability to provide for us is constant and balanced and, more importantly, incorporates the needs of every participating and utilizing sector across the value chain.  

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