KIGALI, April 21 – The government of Rwanda will in March 2022 host the inaugural IUCN Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC), a forum created to deliberate on the best strategies to ensure that the integrity of the continent’s protected areas is safeguarded.

APAC was relaunched in the Rwanda capital, Kigali, on 20th April 2021. The congress, which will be held from 7th to 12th March 2022, will be convened by the Rwandan government, the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s World Commission on Protected Areas (IUCN-WCPA), and the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) in collaboration with other partners.

Speaking at the relaunch event, the Chief Guest Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya, Rwanda’s Environment Minister said: “Having been an IUCN Member since 2016, Rwanda is very proud to take up the global conservation leadership mantle and become the first African country to host the African Protected Area Congress. The Government of Rwanda recognizes the role of protected and conserved areas in ensuring the conservation of nature, sustaining ecosystem services, and promoting sustainable development.

“We are indeed hopeful that through these efforts and deliberations obtained through the congress, Rwanda and the rest of Africa will be on the right trajectory towards the recovery of our protected and conserved areas.”

Key conservation organisations and development partners have been actively engaged in the planning process for APAC, the first of its kind continent-wide gathering of African leaders, citizens, businesses, and interest groups to discuss the role of protected areas in conserving nature and promoting sustainable development in Africa.

The theme of discussions will be Protected Areas, People, and Biodiversity the aim being aim to come up with ways to build and empower the current and the next generation of leaders with a view to move towards a future where wildlife and wildlands in Africa are valued as an asset that contributes to social and economic development.

“Protected and conserved areas play an important role in securing the resilience of ecosystems to help Africa build back better from COVID-19 and to reduce risks of future pandemics,” said Luther Anukur, IUCN Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa.

APAC is a joint effort by conservation partners and African leaders. It is expected to contribute to African Union’s Agenda 2063 that aspires towards an integrated, prosperous, and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the international arena.

Kaddu Sebunya, African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), noted that “the major lesson we have drawn from the past year is that overnight transformational change is possible. A different world, a different economy is suddenly dawning. Through this continental partnership, Africa will be able to present a unified front towards delivering a lasting balance between people, prosperity, and our planetary boundaries.

“African Wildlife Foundation takes great pride in the central role we are playing to raise an African constituency in conservation and this congress is one of the major steps towards achieving this,” added Sebunya.

Through the congress, all partners hope to achieve African leadership commitment towards creating a unified African voice in conservation that will value African people and nature through effective protected areas.