For decades the African safari was synonymous with eco tourism or wildlife holidays and the Kenyan safari was the market leader. Things are changing now though as many more countries get in on the eco-tourist market and in Africa there are many upstarts snapping at the boots of Kenya to take it’s crown as the safari capital of Africa. Kenya is still the major player in safaris but years of underinvestment means it’s infrastructure is not up to modern standards. To deal with this the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has announced plans to launch a series of conservation bonds from next year.
Funds from the new wildlife investment bonds will be used to improve infrastructure for tourists and also help conservation projects for wildlife. The KWS hope to raise enough funds to improve road networks that currently are closed regularly due to flood. It also aims to establish eco-lodges and help expand on community led conservation ranches. Part of the funds will also be directed at national park security systems to improve anti-poaching systems.
Wildlife and eco-tourism is the third largest foreign currency earner in Kenya behind horticulture and tea. In 2009 it was worth 1.1 billion US dollars which was a 30% increase on the previous year. The Kenya Tourist Board has also announced that visitors during 2010 has increased dramatically despite the ongoing global economic climate. The Kenya Wildlife Service understands that investment in major projects will be required to keep Kenya ahead in the safari industry.
By improving eco-lodges, extending the conservation ranches and keeping the roads open during the wet season it’s hoped that premium tourist numbers can be increased still further to provide additional income to local communities. One of the main aims of the new fund is to extend the network of community group conservation ranges and prevent the expansion of agriculture into wildlife areas.
There are 17 community group ranges in Kenya that are operated by local villages and tribes. Their aim is to operate major conservation efforts and encourage wildlife. Because of the high conservation values and high diversity of wildlife the operators of the park can charge a premium for visitors. This brings in good income for the local communities and help encourage ownership of the wildlife which in turn helps to reduce poaching. By using the money raised to invest in more land and the establishment of high quality eco-lodges on the ranches it’s hoped that Kenya will remain in the forefront of eco-tourism.
This is the first time that a government department in Kenya has chosen to launch it’s own bonds on to the market and should be a good option for many of the green investment bodies that are now around. Returns for the bond will be paid from the increasing numbers of tourists that will be attracted to the parks and the fees that are paid for entry. Despite a recent short-lived period of political instability Kenya is pretty much viewed a safe and secure country to do business in by African standards and as such the bond will probably be viewed as being a relatively safe investment. For those of us who take an active interest in where our savings and pensions are invested it could be worth making a call to your adviser to see if the scheme you’re saving with is going to be buying bonds in Kenyan wildlife.
photo credit: exfordy