KIGALI, July 18 (Swara) – The IUCN Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC) – the first-ever Pan-African gathering of leaders, citizens, and interest groups focused on protected areas – got under way in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, on Monday with more than 2,000 participants from 52 African countries and beyond in attendance.

Delegates will over a period of six days (July 18-23) deliberate on the challenges and recommend action for the conservation of Africa’s Protected and Conserved Areas. They will discuss the crucial role of these areas in safeguarding the continent’s iconic wildlife, delivering vital ecosystem services, driving sustainable development and conserving Africa’s cultural heritage and traditions. The event is expected to culminate in all participants adopting the Kigali Call to Action.

Africa is rich in biodiversity – perhaps the richest in the world. We have the most beautiful rivers, forests, mountains and a variety of wildlife that can only be found on this continent. We must therefore spare no effort in protecting and conserving this diversity”, said Édouard Ngirente, the prime minister of Rwanda.Given the huge social and economic benefits of protected and conserved areas, it is my conviction that this Africa Protected Areas Congress will chart pathways towards a resilient and sustainable conservation of our biodiversity for economies’ transformation.”

Bruno Oberle, IUCN Director General said: “Protected and conserved areas in Africa have a complicated legacy, with conservation success too often coming at the expense of local communities. One key focus of the first-ever IUCN Africa Protected Areas Congress is to give a voice to these marginalised communities, stressing their stewardship of nature and the need for inclusive and just conservation models under African leadership, and with global support.”

Kaddu Sebunya, CEO of the African Wildlife Foundation said was a “golden chance to reset and recalibrate our mindsets towards sustainable avenues that will ensure that the wellbeing of wildlife and their habitats is safeguarded.

“Africa faces the challenge of economic transformation in a world that is aware that the current model of prosperity is reaching its ecological limits. To be successful in beating extinction and postponing its inevitability, we will need strong alliances that bring different sectors together if we are to overcome the challenges of wildlife protection and conservation and save the future of our planet; hence why APAC is so important at this moment in time,” added Sebunya.