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AWF Holds Conservation Panel with US State Department, Global Environment Facility

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AWF CEO Kaddu Sebunya at environmental policy panel in Washington DC

African Wildlife Foundation CEO Kaddu Sebunya moderated a panel discussion with environmental policy experts on the future of U.S.-Africa partnerships

U.S. Policy Experts Engage African Officials on Key Legislative Issues, Including Pandemic-Prevention, Conservation Finance, International Wildlife Trafficking, the Climate Crisis, and Biodiversity Loss

WASHINGTON, D.C. AND NAIROBI (May 10, 2022) – How Africa balances conservation of wildlife and wild lands with sustainable economic development has far-reaching consequences for saving Earth’s natural environment. On May 5, 2022, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) convened a high-level panel in Washington, D.C. to examine the nexus of conservation finance, development, and mitigating climate impacts in African countries, along with the implications for U.S. policy formation trailing the global pandemic. Experts and officials drilled down on how the U.S. government and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) plan to prioritize foreign assistance going forward, the evolving role of the U.S. government in African conservation, and the importance of non-partisan political engagement in America’s partnership with African governments.

Billed as a discussion on local and global “megatrends,” participants focused on specific ways governments can work together in developing a new climate action agenda, partnerships to prevent biodiversity loss, and how these issues are playing out across Africa.

The AWF panelists included: Justin Kenney, Counselor, Communications and Public Diplomacy, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, U.S. Department of State; H.E. Mathilde Mukantabana, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Rwanda to the United States of America; Dr. Adriana Gonçalves Moreira, Senior Environmental Specialist, Global Environment Facility (GEF); John Gantt, President, International Conservation Caucus Foundation; and AWF CEO Kaddu Sebunya, who moderated the panel.

Justin Kenney, US Department of State representative at environmental policy panel

Justin Kenney, Counselor, Communications and Public Diplomacy, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, U.S. Department of State

Kenney said: “We stand at a crossroad, facing a climate crisis, a pollution crisis, and a nature crisis. Down one road is more of the same — more pollution and more severe storms, rising temperatures and sea levels, loss of biodiversity, greater environmental injustice, and greater insecurity. The other road leads to a better future where we live sustainably with nature. As we work to raise ambition and, more importantly to take action, collaborations with Africa are front and center in this effort.”

Dr. Moreira said, “Leaders around the world are striving to achieve sustainable development in the face of biodiversity loss, climate change and infectious disease. There is increasing recognition that nature underpins human resilience, which means we need approaches that simultaneously address environmental challenges and human well-being challenges. In the coming decade, the GEF is promoting partnerships that merge grassroots solutions and resources with national- and global-level support. The role of African leadership cannot be understated, and this includes not only governments but also vibrant private sector and civil society organizations.”

The panelists unanimously said that decisions leaders take now will have enduring impact, and that the U.S.-Africa policy landscape is rapidly changing. Factors include extreme weather events occurring more frequently, elevating climate change to warrant a new status of national security. Also, the rush to address pandemic prevention and public health threats from unregulated wildlife markets in the aftermath of COVID-19 will heavily influence opportunities available to Africans governments. ≠‘

Sebunya said: “Today’s panel focused on what we are calling the ‘megatrends.’ These overarching drivers will heavily influence U.S.-African policies that help fund the different aspects of our conservation work. As Africa joins the rest of the world in addressing these key concerns, particularly the climate crisis, efforts must be made to restructure support and financing of conservation agencies, programs, and NGOs working across the continent.”

AWF and the Rwandan Government will co-convene the inaugural IUCN African Protected Areas Congress (APAC) from July 18-23, 2022. The Congress will be an important proving ground for African governments to show the international community that countries are capable of working together to address urgent conservation challenges, and come together under one big tent to put forth new ideas on an African-led vision that secures and safeguards Africa’s vast natural landscapes and wildlife.

Sebunya continued, “The proposal to serve as a financing mechanism for conservation is the formation of A Pan-African Conservation Trust (A-PACT), envisioned to support all of Africa’s protected and conserved areas. The A-PACT model is a conservation trust fund with sufficient endowment (US $95-225 billion) to pay out up to US $6.7 billion annually.”

About African Wildlife Foundation

AWF is the primary advocate for the protection of wildlife and wild lands as an essential part of a modern and prosperous Africa. Founded in 1961 to focus on Africa’s conservation needs, we articulate a uniquely African vision, bridge science and public policy, and demonstrate the benefits of conservation to ensure the survival of the continent’s wildlife and wild lands. AWF is serving as a co-convener of the inaugural African Protected Areas Congress (APAC) in 2022.

About Africa Protected Areas Congress

The IUCN Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC) is the first ever continent-wide gathering of African leaders, citizens, and interest groups to discuss the role of protected areas in conserving nature, safeguarding Africa’s iconic wildlife, delivering vital life-supporting ecosystem services, promoting sustainable development while conserving Africa’s cultural heritage and traditions. APAC is scheduled to take pace in Kigali, Rwanda from July 18-23, 2022. Registration for the Congress is ongoing.

CONTACTS: For U.S. media inquiries, please contact Patrick Mitchell at For APAC inquiries, please contact Valentine Njoroge at or Eileen Kairu at