Vigilance required to stem continent’s losses

A publication by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) called ‘Africa is not Poor, We are Stealing its Wealth’ shows how the continent loses US$29billion annually to illegal logging, fishing and trade in wildlife.

As amply cited in the publication’s title, Africa is bleeding because of weak surveillance, bribery and non-adherence to regulation, laws and policies. Poachers can influence wildlife rangers with hard cash and an elephant can be killed for its ivory tusks. Similarly, illegal unreported and unregulated fishing in African waters is abominably high, as global losses are as high as US$23.5billion.

The Domestic Lumber Trade Association is constantly expressing concern about the over-exploitation of the country’s forest cover. As at 1900, the country’s forest cover was estimated at 8.4 million hectares; but this has dwindled to roughly 1.8 million hectares. At this pace, we might soon not have any forest cover left if urgent measures are not put in place to prevent over-exploitation.

Thankfully, some of our trading partners like the Europeans are as worried as our environmentalists and are only accepting certified timber to enter their market, which also helps us preserve our forests.

The Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) was established in 2003 with the aim of reducing illegal logging and insisting in trading only in legally produced timber. Hence, illegal loggers will find it difficult to export their produce to the established markets of Europe.

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Unfortunately, the effort locally to stem the tide of losses from IUU, trade in wildlife and illegal logging has been met with disregard because those tasked with enforcement are easily compromised and underhand dealings fester.

If the continent is able to get its act together and plug the slippages in the system, we would have much more to show. Wildlife attracts millions of visitors to Africa, yet some people can influence authorities to waive some of the anti-poaching laws for hunters to kill rare wildlife for a pittance.

We need to strengthen monitoring and surveillance to arrest this sad situation and ensure we preserve our collective heritage. If we side-step our responsibilities then we have no-one but ourselves to blame for our eventual stagnation and marginalisation.

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