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Hot off the press: The Africa's Protected Natural Assets Report

Nature provides goods and services for the well-being of people and economies worth 170 trillion US dollars every year – twice the global GDP.

Africa’s natural wealth underpins the continent’s current and future welfare. In addition to natural resources this wealth encompasses a broad range of benefits from nature to society. These ‘ecosystem services’ include clean water for growing cities, insect pollination for agriculture, medicinal plant products for medication, tourism potential, and others. Yet many African countries are facing urgent development needs and follow pathways which translate into high pressures on their natural environments. Climate change further catalyses socio-ecological instability. This leads to biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation and, in consequence, puts Africa’s welfare and development potential at risk.

The Africa's Protected Natural Assets Report is a first of its kind and comprehensive assessment of the social and economic importance of conservation areas in Africa. 

  1. It (i) examines indicators of the state of natural capital in conservation areas;
  2. it (ii) analyses their current socio-economic importance for nine different sectors and policy areas, and
  3. (iii) explores their future role in satisfying societal needs. The report builds on a review of available evidence, new analyses of satellite imagery and international data sets, as well as six site-level case studies.

It is now clearer than ever that our destruction of nature not only causes serious harm to the planet, but also threatens the well-being and prosperity of people and economies. The next ten years will be crucial for protecting our natural wealth – in Africa and all around the world. The international community currently works on a new Global Biodiversity Framework under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity to adopt ambitious biodiversity targets until 2030. A critical building block for the transformation towards nature-positive development pathways is to recognize the economic and social importance of our natural capital and biodiversity.

The Green Value Initiative is the umbrella program of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Co-operation and Development (BMZ) on the value of nature in Africa. Pillar 1 of the initiative, "Africa's Protected Natural Assets", highlights the multiple values of con­servation areas in Africa for development and prosperity. Factsheet :  Green Value Initiative - Natural Capital in Africa 

It aims to raise awareness among decision-makers and the public at large for the necessity to strengthen existing areas, to expand the coverage of protected land and seas and to increase investments in those areas as important assets of Africa’s natural capital. It therewith contributes to an ambitious new Global Biodiversity Framework developed under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

Few excerpts from the report:

  • In 2023 and beyond, for the business-as-usual (BAU ) scenario it is expected that continued land degradation would result in visitor growth falling from 3% to 2.25% over the next 30 years. For the EC scenario it was assumed that ecological and tourism management and investment improvements would improve growth in visitor numbers from 3% per year to 3.75% per year over the next 30 years. The implications of these seemingly slight differences between scenarios are profound when compounded over time. By 2030, the EC scenario would result in approximately US$ 2.3 billion in additional tourism spending per year and more than 370,000 additional jobs
  • BAU scenario for ecosystem degradation: If past degradation trends continue unchanged, a total of 195,000 km2 of conservation land will show significant signs of degradation (i.e. below country-specific NDVI thresholds from 2001 – 2003). This is an increase of more than 40% of total degraded conservation land in Africa. Half of this degradation will take place in just seven countries: Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa, Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. As Africa’s total conserved land area extends to 4.2 million km2 , this figure appears small. However, it should be noted that large conserved land areas are located in arid or desert regions, for which the NDVI index does not capture degradation.( p.42)
  • Conservation areas in drylands slow down desertification and land degradation by protecting the natural vegetation of landscapes. Desertification and land degradation affect 45% of total land area in Africa, causing soil erosion, nutrient depletion, water insecurity and the disruption of biological cycles (ELD & UNEP 2015, Cherlet et al. 2018). This significantly increases risks of famine, conflict and migration (UNCCD 2009a, FAO 2017) on a continent that is home to 250 million people who go hungry every day (FAO and ECA 2018) (see section 4.2.).(p.83)
  • In more than half of Africa’s countries conservation areas are under high potential pressure from desertification and land degradation. Drivers include biophysical and socioeconomic variables13 (data sources: JRC 2018, and UNEP-WCMC WDPA 2020). When these variables coincide, they jeopardize the proper ecological functioning and natural capital of conservation areas. p.83
  • Conservation areas are a key pillar of climate mitigation and adaptation efforts. They lock away more than 60 Gt of carbon in soils and woody biomass.
  • Desertification and land degradation affect 45% of Africa’s total land area today, and at least 54 million people face significant coastal risks. As part of nature-based solutions, conservation areas are an – as yet widely neglected – asset capable of addressing these risks and acting as natural buffers and green belts. Thus, national and regional climate and disaster prevention efforts would strongly benefit from considering, engaging with, and making use of conservation areas.
  • Human health depends on intact landscapes. With a growing population, the importance of Africa’s conservation areas in reducing many threats to human health will grow. This can occur through their provision of protection against diseases linked to dust and sandstorms, safe and unpolluted water, natural pest control done by vultures and scavengers, a bounteous supply of medicinal plants, and reduced risks of zoonotic disease transmission through unfragmented forests. p.97 / See also 11 – drivers of desertification p.129

Quick facts and figures from Key data and facts from the report

  • Water security:
  • ▶ 40 out of the 50 largest reservoirs in Africa receive their water partly from conservation areas.
  • ▶ 14 % of Africa’s total freshwater volume originates from conservation areas.
  • ▶ Sediment yields in South Africa’s Kruger National Park are six times lower than yields in more degraded landscapes around the park.
  • ▶ More than 40 springs around Bale Mountains National Park in Ethiopia provide year round water for up to 12 million people in Ethiopia, Northern Kenya and the Republic of Somalia


  • Agri-food systems:
  • ▶ 28.5 % (more than 1 million km2 ) of Africa’s total cropland area is located inside conservation areas (8.5 %) or within 10 km distance to them (20 %) and benefits from ecologically favorable conditions created by these areas.
  • ▶ In West Africa alone, 226 million agriculturalists live and work within 20 km of a conservation area.
  • ▶ In stabilizing the local climate, the Taï National Park in Cote d’Ivoire secures favourable farming conditions for about 176,000 farming households which harvest 40 % of the national cocoa production, worth 3 % of national GDP.

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Further reading from BMZ 

A Marshall Plan with Africa  Africa has great potential – potential which goes well beyond abundant natural resources, cultural diversity, entrepreneurial spirit and innovative force. By 2035, Africa will have the world's biggest potential labour force.

Africa's population is set to double by 2050, accounting then for 20 per cent of the world's population. Africa is where the global markets, workforce and customers of the future will be found. Accordingly, the challenge is to turn to account the continent's potential and provide work and prospects for the young people living there.

The countries of Africa have set themselves a highly ambitious agenda for the socio-economic transformation they need to accomplish.

The agenda sets out that, by 2063, Africa will be "a prosperous [continent] with the means and resources to drive its own development, and with a sustainable and long-term responsibility for its resources". (Goal 1 of the African Union's Agenda 2063 (External link))

In order to help Africa realise this development agenda, we need an entirely new kind of collaboration, a political partnership between equals which offers support for Africa's own agenda. Africa needs African solutions. Therefore, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has taken a new direction in its cooperation with Africa.

The Cornerstones for a Marshall Plan with Africa initiated by the BMZ were presented in early 2017 for discussion in an online dialogue with academics, businesspeople, and representatives from the Churches, society and politics. These cornerstones have since been used to create the conceptual and strategic framework for the BMZ's Africa policy.


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