Who will pay for Africa’s wild spaces?
Covid-19 has taught Africa’s conservation industry that for many there’s no plan B. Richard Holmes investigates its potential future
For decades the perceived wisdom around preserving much of Africa’s wilderness areas has been simple: set aside large swathes of land for conservation, and charge well-heeled international travellers —mostly from Europe, the US and Asia — a hefty fee to enjoy them in relative seclusion. Local travellers? Largely an afterthought to fill up the quiet months.
And for decades, it worked. Wildlife was left to roam and multiply largely undisturbed. Lodge operators profited and expanded. Governments earned concession fees. Local communities enjoyed a boom in employment in corners of the continent often forgotten by the formal economy. According to figures from the World Travel & Tourism Council, wildlife tourism on the continent is worth $71bn a year. No small change.