African nations convene for landmark workshop to set priorities for natural capital accounting

Representatives from Conservation International, the World Bank WAVES program and 12 African nations gather together in Nairobi for the “Regional Perspectives on Natural Capital Accounting” workshop June 21-23, 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya.

Representatives from Conservation International, the World Bank WAVES program and 12 African nations gather together in Nairobi for the “Regional Perspectives on Natural Capital Accounting” workshop June 21-23, 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya.

Conservation International (CI) and the World Bank's Wealth Accounting and the Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES) program brought together government officials and technical experts from member countries of the Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa (GDSA)  for a “Regional Perspectives on Natural Capital Accounting” workshop June 21-23, 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya. Workshop participants included representatives from twelve countries, including 9 of the 10 GDSA signatory countries (Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa and Tanzania, plus supporting countries Madagascar and Uganda as well as non-member Mauritius).

Perhaps more than anywhere else, natural resources such as forests, wildlife and minerals play a crucial role in the economies of sub-Saharan Africa. In Kenya, for example, it has been estimated that the forests annually contribute ecosystem services equivalent to 3.6% of the national GDP. In Namibia, where Natural Capital Accounting has been utilized since the 1990’s, Wildlife Resource Accounts estimated that the country’s wildlife assets are valued at N$10.6 billion. As NCA gains global momentum in both the private and public sector, countries are increasingly exploring ways of mainstreaming the results of these accounts into decision making processes.  

View of Mt. Kilimanjaro from Kenya with elephants in the foreground. © Ian Lenehan/500px

View of Mt. Kilimanjaro from Kenya with elephants in the foreground. © Ian Lenehan/500px

This regional workshop on NCA — the first of its kind — capitalized on the increasing desire for information on NCA and collaboration across Africa. CI made public the results of a year-long scoping study on NCA across GDSA countries. GDSA Executive Secretary Ruud Jansen opened the meeting, saying that the main impetus for creating the GDSA was to look after African resources, and as such the need to know how to value them. He was followed by the H.E. John Moreti, the Ambassador of Botswana to Kenya, who talked about the immense benefits NCA can bring to the continent emphasizing that the the approach can help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and a number of other aims. Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, CI’s Vice President and Senior Advisor of Global Policy, used Costa Rica as a case study to highlight the catalytic need for key policy makers to “speak the same language” towards proving that environment is a productive sector. “NCA can help us take the leap forward from the industrial to the green economy, and the GDSA is a great platform for this change of institutional structures to happen,” he said.

WAVES is a global partnership that aims to mainstream Natural Capital in development planning, economic policy and decision-making in support of sustainable development. Stig Johansson, World Bank WAVES Program Manager, discussed how NCA has emerged as a response to go beyond GDP as a measure of progress and well-being. WAVES is currently working in eight countries, looking at implementation and cooperation at national, regional, and global levels.

Workshop participants shared successes and lessons learned. In a series of Case Studies, Gaborone Declaration countries Botswana, South Africa, Namibia and Rwanda presented on the successes and challenges in developing national accounts in their countries. In Botswana, for example, one of the first countries supported by WAVES, natural capital accounting is included in the keynote paper for the forthcoming National Development Plan, and water accounts have been identified as a key tool for water sector reforms. Other nations such as Ghana and Tanzania who are just beginning the NCA process were able to learn from these diverse experiences. Participants explored ways to build or enhance country programs in NCA and expressed the need to continue and expand regional engagement.  

Portia Segomelo, National Advisor for WAVES Botswana, makes a point for discussion during the "Regional Perspectives on Natural Capital Accounting” workshop.

Portia Segomelo, National Advisor for WAVES Botswana, makes a point for discussion during the "Regional Perspectives on Natural Capital Accounting” workshop.

This dynamic discussion resulted in the Gaborone Declaration Natural Capital Accounting Statement , which provides the foundation to launch an African-led Community of Practice. The statement calls upon the GDSA and partners to work to establish Community of Practice (COP) on Natural Capital Accounting “for the specific purpose of learning and sharing of approaches, experiences, and best practices in NCA among the GDSA countries via south-south exchanges, dialogue by both practitioners and decision-makers on NCA, and training opportunities as appropriate including both technical practitioners (account producers and analysts) and decision-makers (account users).”  

The workshop agenda and presentations are available on the World Bank WAVES website. For next steps: later this year, CI and WAVES will release a workshop report which will include an actionable timeline for building upon the momentum of the workshop