The inaugural Africa Wildlife Economy Summit opened in Victoria Falls. Pic: Voyages Afriq

The President of the Republic of Zimbabwe Emmerson Mnangagwa has officially opened the inaugural Africa Wildlife Economy Summit in Zimbabwe’s Tourism capital of Victoria Falls.

Speaking as the keynote speaker at the auditorium of the Elephant Hills resort, the President said, Zimbabwe was happy to host the maiden summit.

‘’We are delighted to host this inaugural Wildlife Economy Summit; the first of its kind on the African Continent which is being held under the theme ‘Communities for Conservation, Harnessing Conservation Tourism and Supporting Governments’. This resonates with our renewed effort to ensure that our citizens benefit from the sustainable management of natural resources and wildlife.’’ he said.

The President was optimistic that the deliberations will go a long way towards the realisation of the conservation agenda of our great Continent.

‘’Thriving wildlife resources have a tremendous potential to be instrumental in sustainable socio-economic development through associated wildlife oriented businesses such as eco-tourism, hunting and photographic safaris among other benefits. We must therefore, continue to utilise platforms such as this one, to explore innovative ways to leverage wildlife resources to grow our economies; eradicate poverty; achieve broad based empowerment, create decent jobs, especially for women and youth. It is equally important to guarantee biodiversity within our ecosystems.’’ He added.

The Minister of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Senator Priscah Mupfumira in her opening remarks said the summit will offer a unique platform for exchange of ideas in the management of wildlife.

‘’The Summit affords the continent a unique opportunity for cross fertilisation of ideas in wildlife management. We also hope it can unite all stakeholders and diverse players in the wildlife sector. These range from political leadership, communities and the private sector who all need to join hands to come up with ideas and solutions designed to bring about sustainable socio-economic benefits to our people’’ she added.

The Minister rounded up her message with a clarion call for collective desire that the deliberations at the summit will produce tangible outcomes, which shall transform the wildlife economies of Africa.

'’ Since the purpose of this Summit is to bring communities, private investors and governments together to define the future of the wildlife economy in Africa, I am confident we all acknowledge that communities must be equal partners in the conservation of wildlife. When communities living closest to wildlife have a clear role and stake in managing nature, they have a stronger incentive to conserve it.’’

The President of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Masisi, President of Zambia- Edgar Lungu and Namibian President Hage Geingob were among the visiting heads of states attending the 3-day summit.

The summit is held under the patronage of the African Union (AU) and the United Nations Environment program with the support of the Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality. The 3-day program is expected to gather experts, government leaders, the private sector players and conservationists to discuss ways of managing wildlife in Africa to the benefits of its people.