Business meets biodiversity to conserve and value Africa’s ecosystems

By Shaun Hurrell, Olive Thiong'o, 19 Jan 2016
“Generation-thinking leaders buy insurance by investing now, before the accident.”
“Generation-thinking leaders buy insurance by investing now, before the accident,” His Majesty Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofori Panin II. Photo: BirdLife Africa

With the launch of a video, we look back and celebrate the success of the Pan-African Business & Biodiversity Forum - a first-of-its-kind forum that pushed nature-thinking into discussions on the sustainable development of Africa to benefit nature, people and business.

This is a very interesting time in Africa. The continent is uniquely endowed with vast and varied natural resources, perhaps capable of supporting twice its current human population. Yet the economic realities of most African countries suggest otherwise.

 Julius Arinaitwe, Director of BirdLife Africa

“We need to break away from poverty; we need to be prosperous, to live lives that reflect the richness of our environment because we are really blessed,” says Julius Arinaitwe, Director of BirdLife Africa.

The global trend of growing economies has shown little regard for the natural environment, or of compensating for the seemingly inexhaustible exploitation of natural resources, or of incorporating their value into the march of progress.

Photo: Shaun Hurrell, BirdLifeAn event in Ghana represented a unique opportunity for the continent, and has sparked a glimmer of hope for a better way forward. A ground-breaking forum pushed nature awareness into discussions on the sustainable development of Africa to benefit nature, people and business.

Over 200 participants from 41 countries including business, governments, civil society, academia, development organisations and financial institutions were brought together to exchange ideas and practices at the first Pan-African Business and Biodiversity Forum (PABBF).

“Africa has the chance to show the rest of the world how development can be inclusive and sustainable – by valuing natural capital”, says Ademola Ajagbe, Team Leader, Conservation Action and Policy, BirdLife Africa.

Natural capital can be defined as the stocks of indispensable natural assets and benefits from which humans derive a wide range of services, making human life possible.

Ademola Ajagbe, Team Leader, Conservation Action and Policy, BirdLife Africa

“People worldwide, businesses large or small - we all have one thing in common, and that is we depend on natural capital”, said Ajagbe.

With the theme Investing in Natural Capital for Inclusive Development, the Forum’s aim was to promote increased sustainability within Africa’s development agenda through the mainstreaming of natural capital, and improved business-civil society cooperation.

Organised by BirdLife’s Africa Secretariat, the Forum featured constructive dialogue in four thematic sessions: Extractive Industries; Renewable Energy; Natural-Capital Accounting; and Sustainable Agriculture.

As such, nine African countries (Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Namibia, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda) now aim to go on to establish National Business & Biodiversity Initiatives – commitments captured in the event’s Senchi Statement, which outlines follow-up activities to translate Forum outcomes into actions.

 Read the thematic conclusions from the event in the Senchi Statement

The historic event was hosted by Ghana Wildlife Society (BirdLife Partner), and held at the Royal Senchi Hotel. And a royal event it was – His Majesty Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofori Panin II gave a passionate opening speech that urged Africa to invest in nature:

“Generation-thinking leaders buy insurance by investing now, before the accident.”

Braulio Dias, Executive Secretary of the UN CBD

Braulio Dias, Executive Secretary of the UN CBD was Keynote Speaker:

“Biodiversity needs to be on the table as part of the solution. We need the business sectors on board because they directly utilise nature, and unless their practices and policies are more sustainable we will fail. So governments have agreed to common global agenda.”

The sustainability of businesses are equally threatened by poor consideration of natural capital in policy processes and development planning.

Speaking at the forum, Hon. Dr. Seth Adjei-Baah, President, Ghana Chamber of Commerce and Industry said: “We are people who are taking care of our natural resources for the future. So if we destroy it, we are destroying the future.”

Ghana Wildlife Society and GHACEM sign partnership.</br>Photo: BirdLife Africa

During the event, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in collaboration with the Africa Development Bank shared a report, Africa Ecological Futures, which outlines the six sectors to be looked into for sustainable development, whilst ensuring efficient use of natural resources.

Hosts Ghana Wildlife Society signed an ecosystem-restoration partnership agreement with Ghacem (subsidiary of Heidelberg Cement in Ghana) – an inspiring opportunity that epitomises the kind of outcomes that will continue to come from this event.

Managing Director Morten Gade, who signed on behalf of GHACEM, said the new partnership would reinforce both organisations to better-protect biodiversity in Ghana, and the goal is for biodiversity values to be cohesive in GHACEM’s practices.

“This forum is just the beginning”,

said Patricia Zurita, Chief Executive of BirdLife International. “We have started a process and open dialogue to really discuss how to enhance better development, successful businesses and the conservation and proper management of natural capital.”

Here is a photo album for a glimpse of the event.

The Pan-African Business & Biodiversity Forum was organised by BirdLife International and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in partnership with the  Government of Ghana, African Centre for Technology Studies, African Development Bank, Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa, Conservation International, Endangered Wildlife Trust, Fauna and Flora International, International Union for Conservation of Nature, Olam, Pan-African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, The Biodiversity Consultancy, UNDP, United Nations Environment Programme-World Conservation Monitoring Centre, World Bank Group, World Business Council for Sustainable Development and World Wide Fund for Nature.