Cape Town - During his visit to Cape Town this week, African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) chief executive Kaddu Sebunya detailed the status of conservation and climate change in Africa, and the concern that there aren’t many major African voices today leading the fight against the destruction of habitat and wildlife.
Sebunya called on African leadership and youth to step up and ensure long-term conservation success.
“In terms of conservation efforts, Africa is not doing very well compared to the rest of the world,” he said.
Sebunya said Africa had the richest biodiversity in the world and more than 8 600 protected and conservation areas (many being the size of European countries), however it faced numerous challenges that ranged from meaningful leadership to minority concern for conservation, and a shortfall of funding for conservation areas and efforts.
He also believed that African countries had some of the best conservation and climate change legislation, but governments often fell short in implementation, and to change this required a drastic change in the mindset of African leaders.
Mthembukazi Bavuma, a young climate activist from the social and environmental justice organisation Project 90 by 2030, said South Africa fell victim to this because when it came to the implementation of policies and adhering to legislation, government often proved a hindrance.
Charles Simane, policy researcher and organiser at the Co-operative and Policy Alternative Centre and Climate Justice Charter Movement member, said African leaders failed to take the climate crisis and conservation seriously, despite the continent being at the forefront of climate extremes.
While there has been increasing involvement from the general public in conservation matters and the climate crisis, Sebunya believed that the majority of Africa was still not as concerned as it should be about its current conservation status.
Simane said the reason some people appeared unconcerned about the climate crisis and conservation was largely because they were uninformed. This was why the Climate Justice Charter Movement was taking climate science to rural areas to educate people about the crisis.
Bavuma agreed, and said the role of African youth in conservation matters and the climate crisis was to educate one another by learning and unlearning the dangers of climate change through peers, social groups and other platforms.
Gabriel Klaasen, spokesperson for African Climate Alliance, a youthled, grass-roots environmental justice organisation, said despite concern and willingness to engage with leaders, it was clear that leaders did not want their input and, because of this, they took a practical approach of grass-roots activism and awareness campaigns.
“We need to show the world that we can create a future by and for all, that this future can be a just one. We need drastic change and this is one way we can achieve it,” Klaasen said.