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Uganda to host Africa’s first Conservation and Tourism Investment Forum

The event this October aims to raise vital funds to support and protect Uganda’s wildlife and landscapes long term.

The Giants Club, the conservation initiative supported by the Independent and Evening Standard, today announced it would stage Africa’s first Conservation and Tourism Investment Forum on 6th October 2017.

The event, which will be held in Uganda, was announced by the country’s President, Yoweri Museveni, at a special press launch at State House in Entebbe. The President told the attending dignitaries that this would be a unique opportunity to harness the financial muscle of the world’s leading hotel and lodge operators to raise vital funds to support and protect Uganda’s wildlife.

Uganda has Africa’s fastest growing elephant population but, with urgent development needs and limited budgets, the country lacks adequate financial resources to fully support its conservation requirements.

“This announcement today is an important step in our commitment to unlocking the new and innovative investment models needed to effectively protect our most beautiful landscapes and wildlife for the benefit of the Ugandan people,” President Museveni said.

“The Forum is aimed at launching a new initiative to attract tourism into Uganda, to make it a destination for high-end paying clients, and secure long-term sources of funding for the protection and maintenance of Uganda’s Protected Area network.

”By inviting conservation-motivated investors to help build a ‘nature-based economy’, we will rehabilitate and manage Uganda’s network of protected areas while delivering economic growth."

The Giants Club was created by the conservation charity Space for Giants and its patron is Evgeny Lebedev, the Independent's proprietor. It has been working with its partners, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), to assist the Ugandan government in identifying which of the country's 3.1 million hectares of wildlife zones would suit new international investment.

Uganda’s Giants Club Conservation and Tourism Investment Forum will then present the best of those opportunities to interested companies who are committed to wildlife-friendly development. Their investment will help preserve and manage Uganda’s protected areas long term.

Key to the Forum's approach is to introduce an enabling investment framework and a transparent ‘investors pathway’, to simplify the steps needed to take to launch new business operations under the initiative.

The event follows the inaugural Giants Club summit held in Kenya last year which saw £3.8 million committed to conservation and was followed by the burning of Kenya’s stockpile of seized ivory, drawing international media attention.

”It's understandable that in the present economic climate, governments must prioritise where they spend their money, and conservation may not be top of the list,“ said Max Graham, Founder and CEO of Space for Giants.

”But it's also true that there are legions of companies around the world who are very keen to take up that slack, to fund conservation of wilderness areas in ways that also build their businesses. The Forum, uniquely, helps to bring these two sides together, the investors and the authorities, in a way that will drive economic benefits and environmental ones too.“

Following the Forum, a series of events will be staged across the world to widen the reach of the initiative by showcasing Uganda's conservation investment opportunities. These will highlight the new investment framework, and convey how potential investors can work with conservationists to protect the country’s ecosystems.

At today’s launch Almaz Gebru, UNDP’s country director for Uganda, made clear the organisation’s commitment to the success of the Forum and in encouraging responsible investment to help boost the Ugandan economy.

Kaddu Sebunya, AWF’s President, said: “The African Wildlife Foundation is excited to be partnering with the Giants’ Club on this important initiative. Uganda is blessed with some of the world’s most important wildlife and wildlands; however, the country needs resources to ensure their long-term conservation and adequate management. That is why AWF is keen to be working with partners in optimising the commercial opportunities in Uganda’s protected areas and to catalyse effective partnerships.”

The Giants Club unites African heads of state, conservation experts, philanthropists and global companies in order to work towards its mission of protecting half of Africa's elephants by 2020. President Museveni is one of four founding Presidents of the Club, along with the leaders of Kenya, Gabon and Botswana.