Nature-based investing ready for take-off in Africa
Nature is clearly indispensable to many economic activities in Africa and around the world.
In Kenya, for example, tourism is making rapid progress in recovering to pre-pandemic levels, when it generated over 8% of GDP, and the tourist trade depends heavily on the lure of the country’s wildlife.
Threats to biodiversity and ecosystems are therefore an issue of profound importance for investors, as well as governments, according to a report by African Business.
The destruction of vital ecosystems across many parts of the world is the consequence of prevailing economic models prioritising short-term gain at the expense of long-term sustainability.
“I spend a lot of time with African leaders,” says Kaddu Sebunya, CEO of the African Wildlife Foundation, “and they’ll tell you frankly that ‘the global economy doesn’t pay or reward me if I secure forests. But they reward me if I cut down the forest and export sugar.’”
But when habitats are lost or damaged, it is often humans who pay the ultimate price. The devastating mudslides that hit Freetown, Sierra Leone, in August 2017, killing over 1,000 people, were partly caused by deforestation on hillsides around the city. As the city grew, its surrounding hills lost much of the tree cover that had held soils together and provided a natural drainage mechanism.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, Freetown has become one of the pioneers of nature-based investing in urban areas in Africa, according to John-Rob Pool, senior manager at the World Resources Institute. Among other initiatives, the city is establishing a ‘water fund’ as a public-private partnership to protect nearby areas of forest that provide Freetown with its water supply.
Other African cities can benefit from following Freetown’s example, says Pool. “Nature-based solutions, when implemented and deployed properly, can be really useful in improving air quality, in reducing extreme urban heat, improving the quality and the supply of water, in reducing the risk of landslides and flooding, and so on.”