– Tourism is critical to the long-term survival of conservation landscapes across the African continent, officials said.
Harare, Zimbabwe – The International Finance Corporation (IFC) has announced a US$13 million investment in the Africa Conservation and Communities Tourism Fund (ACCT Fund).
This is aimed at supporting the post-pandemic recovery and sustainable growth of sub-Saharan Africa’s ecotourism sector.
The investment will support ecotourism businesses in and around conservation areas in East and Southern Africa.
The key focus of the funding will be South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania, and Zambia.
The ACCT Fund will invest in operators of safari camps, hotels, and lodges, helping them address liquidity shortages, and recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The fund is also helping them refurbish, renovate, and expand their operations, especially where the businesses can achieve meaningful conservation and community development impact.
– ACCT Fund
The ACCT Fund is a structured debt vehicle that was established in 2021 in response to COVID-19-related challenges affecting the ecotourism sector.
It is meant to provide flexible financing to conservation tourism businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa, which were severely hit by the COVID-19 pandemic owing to travel restrictions.
The fund will help to support job retention, continued payment of fees to conservation areas, and other ongoing support for conservation and community development initiatives.
Impact investment and advisory group, Third Way Partners, and The Nature Conservancy, a global environmental non-profit organisation were instrumental in the formation of the organisation.
IFC investment is expected to save about 21,200 full-time jobs, through a US$530 million investment through direct, indirect, and induced effects in the agriculture, retail, transportation, and recreational sectors.
“We are very grateful for IFC’s support to this innovative and very important initiative,” said Maarten Weehuizen, Managing Director of the ACCT Fund.
“The ACCT Fund is an impact investment vehicle which balances financial goals with a clear conservation and community impact agenda.”
“Tourism is critical to the long-term survival of conservation landscapes across the African continent, to the benefit of the people and the wildlife who depend on them,” Weehuizen added.
“Even prior to the COVID pandemic these areas were under significant pressure.
Tourism provides jobs in rural areas, funding for nature protection and its activities with guests in these landscapes significantly reduce the risk of poaching, deforestation and land conversion,” Weehuizen said.
The ACCT Fund is structured using a blended finance approach with three tranches of capital being grant funding, junior equity, and senior equity funding.
The US$13 million fund is in the senior equity tranche.
The ACCT Fund is aligned to the World Bank Group’s goals of ending extreme poverty and promoting shared prosperity as well as the World Bank Group’s Green Resilient and Inclusive Development (GRID) framework.
The framework is designed to repair the structural damage caused by COVID-19, accelerate climate change mitigation and adaptation, and support a strong and sustainable recovery.
Ecotourism businesses are committed to protecting the environment and wildlife where they operate.
Although Zimbabwe is not a beneficiary from this fund, Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management (ZimParks) is also tourism based.
Meanwhile IFC is a member of the World Bank Group, the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in emerging markets.
IFC works in more than 100 countries, using their capital, expertise, and influence to create markets and opportunities in developing countries.
In 2022, IFC committed a record $32.8 billion to private companies and financial institutions in developing countries, as the global crisis compound.