The sixth African Leadership Forum (ALF) took place in Dar es salaam, Tanzania, from 29 – 30 August 2019, under the theme “Promoting Good Natural Resource Management for Socio-economic Transformation in Africa”.

The objective of the Forum was to reflect on the potential for land, wildlife, fishery, and forestry in fostering socio-economic transformation in Africa and address the noted widespread unsustainable use of natural resources across the continent as well as the anticipated socio-economic, environmental and climate change consequences.

The keynote address, expanding on the theme, was delivered by H.E. Benjamin William Mkapa, former President of the United Republic of Tanzania and Patron of the Forum. The organisation was managed by UONGOZI Institute.

Similar to previous events, ALF 2019 was organised over a day and a half period with an open plenary and closed sessions under the same theme. The closed sessions were held under Chatham House Rules to encourage frank, open and in-depth discussion.

The plenary session of the Forum was graced by the attendance of H.E. Dr. John Pombe Joseph Magufuli, President of the United Republic of Tanzania, who later on delivered an address. H.E. Samia Suluhu Hassan, Vice President of the United Republic of Tanzania; H.E Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; H.E. Thabo Mbeki, former President of the Republic of South Africa; H.E. Jakaya Kikwete, former President of the United Republic of Tanzania; H.E. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, former President of the Federal Republic of Somalia; and H.E. Hery Rajaonarimampianina, former President of the Democratic Republic of Madagascar; were in attendance. Also in attendance were diplomats, heads of international organisations and regional communities, and leaders from the public sector, private sector, academia, and civil society from across Africa.

Under the overarching theme, the Forum considered three sub-themes, namely Basic Principles for Managing Renewable Resources, Illicit Practices of Renewable Resources in Africa, and Africa’s Perspective on Climate Change and its Impact on Natural Resources.

In his address, former President Mkapa underscored the significance of the Forum’s theme.

He said, “This year’s African Leadership Forum touches the growth prospects of many African countries, if not all of them, and the lives of all their citizens.”

He further explained the rationale behind the three sub-themes, namely Conservation, Land Management, and Climate Change.

“This is no accident, because the three interface and impact one another,” said H.E. Mkapa.

Former President Mkapa stressed that the absence of a conservation policy and accompanying programmes can have a disastrous impact on the nation’s ecosystems and weather prospects. He said both can accrue from the nation’s land-use policy, thus affect the sustainability of its land management system. According to him, to achieve vibrant economic growth, it is necessary to have sustainable land management in place.

“Sustainable land management involves a holistic approach to achieving productive and healthy ecosystems by integrating social, economic, physical and biological needs and values contributing to sustainable and rural development,” he elucidated.

Touching on environmental conservation, H.E. Mkapa said that the destruction and diminution of the ecological and social environment can be attributed to two causes: human activities and the interface of nature.

“The population of Sub-Saharan Africa is set to cross the 1 billion mark this year. I dare to suggest that much of the present and planned growth is not taking enough consideration of the region’s human and natural resources base,” he stated.

Former President Mkapa further underscored the increasing demands placed on land and other natural resources that affect nature and wildlife reserves. He argued that in this way, “Development is made to put people and nature/wildlife reserves in competition.”

On climate change, H.E. Mkapa said, “Climate change manifests itself and is felt in different ways. It is occasioned by global warming and excessive depletion of renewable natural resources – land fertility, deforestation, inland waters recession.”

He provided an example of Tanzania, whose 70% of the population, peasant farmers and livestock keepers, relies on climate change and global warming. He said as the economy and population grow, renewable natural resources are declining, about 8,770 square kilometers of forest disappear every year. He cautioned that if the trend will continue, by 2075 there will be no forests in Tanzania.

Former President Mkapa went on to state, “Reforestation is possible.” He gave an example of Wangari Maathai’s Green Belt Movement in Kenya, which planted over 50 million trees around Nairobi in about 10 years. Also, Ethiopia, which since May, has planted 2.6 billion trees as part of a campaign to fight desertification.

To promote good natural resource management, H.E. Mkapa emphasised on “communication”, “education” and “land use policy.” He said that governments and communities must always collaborate in the development and implementation of programmes for sustainable management of natural resources. Communities must be sensitised and empowered to protect their natural resources. Furthermore, African countries should put in place, by policy and practice, land-use policies. These should spell out with a minimum of equivocation rights of occupancy and an adjudication system of resolution of land disputes.

Addressing the meeting, H.E. Dr. John Pombe Joseph Magufuli stressed on “African solutions to African problems.”

He said, “African challenges can only be solved by Africans as we understand our challenges better than anyone else.”

President Magufuli considered that the foundation of any nation’s development lies in its resources and people. He, however, noted that even though the continent is endowed with resources such as minerals, gas, fertile lands, sustainable management of these resources remains a challenge.

He further mentioned six factors that prevent Africa to realise the benefits of its resources, namely colonial mind-set, failure to manage resources, lack of innovation and industrial backwardness, conflicts, unconscionable contracts, and environmental pollution.

How then does Africa reach a turning point? Responding to this question, President Magufuli said that Africans must focus on what is available in the local and immediate context, and transform it into money.

He further stated that money comes at the end, and is not the foundation of development. He quoted Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, Tanzania’s founding father, “Even Mwalimu Nyerere said for us to develop, we need people, land, clean politics and good leadership. He did not say anything about money, he knew that would follow.”

In closing, President Magufuli mentioned measures that the Government of Tanzania has been implementing to ensure good management of natural resources for socio-economic transformation. These included enacting a law for the protection of permanent sovereignty over natural wealth and resources, reviewing mineral contracts, incorporating technology in the industrialisation agenda, implementing various hydropower projects to reduce and prevent deforestation, expanding nature reserves, and combating and preventing corruption in the public sector and beyond.