Lift-off for long-awaited Tourism Conservation Fund

After more than three years of preparations, the long-awaited Tourism Conservation Fund (TCF) was launched at the beginning of May, with the public and private sector coming together in Johannesburg and Cape Town to hear more about the opportunities it will create – all with the ultimate goal of securing a future for the country’s natural heritage by providing real economic benefits for rural communities.

The mission

The TCF is a joint venture between its founders, the Peace Parks Foundation and Southern African Tourism Services Association (SATSA). Its official mission is to enhance biodiversity and the conservation of South Africa’s conservation areas through effective economic social development programmes which contribute to sustainable poverty reduction, economic opportunity and broad-based economic growth in communities suffering from or at high risk of wildlife crime.

In partnership with the South African government and leading organisations in tourism and conservation, the TCF aims to create viable local enterprises and training and employment opportunities for poor households and entrepreneurs living adjacent to protected conservation areas.

Why a Tourism Conservation Fund?

Speaking at the launch event in Johannesburg, CEO of the TCF, which was attended by government dignitaries, including the Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom, and Director-General of Environmental Affairs, Nosipho Ngcaba; Paul Zille explained the crucial importance of this initiative.

“At the heart of South Africa’s booming tourism economy is our wildlife. Eight percent of first-time visitors to South Africa come for wildlife and one in seven South Africans depend on tourism for their livelihood. If we were to lose our iconic biodiversity, we would feel it immediately and the impact on our economy would be dramatic in terms of lost investment and jobs.”

But, Zille admits that tackling wildlife crime is no easy feat. “If we are looking at the real drivers of wildlife crime, we don’t have to look much further than the structure of the wildlife economy. There is a deep dichotomy that separates the five-star lodges that coexists with communities who have often been forcibly removed; communities that are often densely populated and poor. Effectively, they have been entirely excluded from the wildlife and tourism value chain. It is little wonder there is no great identity on behalf of the households in these communities with wildlife resources.”

Zille also points out that while these communities may be host to wildlife crime, they are also the major victims of global wildlife crime syndicates.

It is for this reason that the TCF will “work on the other side of the fence”, says Zille. “We will use the fund to incentivise commercial partnerships with entities anywhere along the wildlife-tourism value chain.” The measure of success will be the extent to which the TCF can effectively dilute the incentives the drive people on the borders of parks to participate in wildlife crime.

How it will work

The TCF will be drive by Zille and a Board comprising senior representatives of the tourism industry and conservation sector. It aims to raise its revenues through voluntary donations from businesses, donors and foundations operating in tourism and conservation.

Contributors will receive Section 18A tax deductions on their donations, as well as BEE Scorecard points in relation to the social-economic development (SED) and enterprise development (ED) categories of the BEE codes.

Three initial programmes 

This year, the TCF aims to launch three programmes. The first is an Inclusive Business Linkage Fund to establish and scale commercial linkages between high-value formal enterprises operating across the local wildlife-tourism value chain, and new and emerging businesses operating in adjacent communities. Applications for this programme will close on the 15th of June, 2018.

Discussing this programme, Zille adds, “We will be strongly engaged and facilitative in terms of responding to every single applicant. We want ideas from across that country which we can scale and replicate.”

Director-General Ngcaba expressed enthusiasm for this programme, stating that it will enable new players to come in at a level that will not compromise on service standards. “We see this Fund as providing the opportunity to redirect the negative energy currently being directed towards poaching. Most of the country’s high-conservation assets are located close to households with limited job opportunities. Wildlife crim in these communities directly threaten the opportunities for economic prosperity and social empowerment. The TCF is an important instrument which must have its foundations in a partnership-based approach and raise the involvement of communities, the NGO network, private sector and supported by government, to test and develop new approaches to tackle wildlife crime.”

that will enable new players to come in and participate but at a level in terms of service standards are not compromised. New entrants need to be well equipped and prepared. See fund as providing opportunity to redirect negative energy currently being directed towards poaching. Most of high-conservation assets are located close to households with limited job opportunities. Wildlife crime in those communities directly threaten the opportunities for economic prosperity and social empowerment. This TCF is an important instrument which must have its foundations on partnership-based approach, raise involvement of communities, NGO network, private sector and supported by government – test and develop new approaches to tackle wildlife crimes.

Secondly, a Youth Training for Employment Facility will be launched later this year to provide unemployed youth with work-readiness and vocational training appropriate to the job opportunities that exist within the local wildlife-tourism economy. It will work simultaneously with employers to create structured internships for youth who graduate from such training, many of whom will hopefully realise long-term formal employment in the sector.

Finally, a Finance and Business Support Fund will be created to provide patient capital to high-potential and fast-growing small businesses. Zille says these long-term patient concessionary loans will hopefully assist the partnerships established in the first programme, by providing them with the necessary cash flow to grow and establish themselves.

Zille concluded: “We want to be led by the industry as to where the opportunities are. Fundamentally, this is the fund of the tourism industry. It has been created in your name so it’s vitally important that the tourism industry is investing in this fund. It’s your resource, so come to us with your ideas and funds and we will help you realise this vision of an inclusive wildlife-tourism economy that is a source of sustainable jobs.”


For further details, please consult Paul Zille on 083 306 6288, paulz@tcfund.org.za, or Greta Downie on 082 897 6577, gretad@tcfund.org.za. Visit the TCF website, www.tourismconservationfund.org.

 

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