Over the past 30 years, tourism has funded conservation activities in many countries. However, all forms of tourism are extremely vulnerable to social, economic or political instability. The shock to the tourism sector caused by the COVID-19 pandemic further highlighted the vulnerability of a conservation model based primarily on tourism.
The Beyond Tourism in Africa Innovation Challenge was a partnership between the Luc Hoffmann Institute, the African Leadership University’s (ALU) School of Wildlife Conservation and WWF’s Regional Office for Africa. The innovation challenge saw more than 300 applications submitted from across Africa and around the world. Fifteen winning ideas were selected via a rigorous judging process by a panel of experts, and select winners were given access to seed funding and a chance to pitch their venture at ALU’s Business of Conservation Conference in September 2021.
The winning teams joined ALU’s incubator programme from February to September 2021 to build their ideas into viable, investment-ready businesses. Since then, several of the ventures have launched as successful businesses.
Opening its digital doors in November 2021, the Shaba gives three hundred and fifty artisans living in five rural communities in Kenya access to an online marketplace to sell their products. Billing itself as a ‘social impact design brand’, the studio acts as a digital supply chain for rural communities making sisal craft products, allowing a decentralized, small-scale manufacturing system for handmade. Community groups are able to access the portal, receive orders, and check on payment through the Shaba mobile app.
In December 2021, Home of the Gorillas launched My Gorilla Family, a subscription-based app that allows users to get regular updates about mountain gorillas’ daily activities and contribute towards a sustainable, non-trekking revenue stream for gorilla conservation.
The project’s innovator, Melissa de Kock, now Head of the Biodiversity, People and Landscapes Unit at the UNEP, said, “I really appreciated how quickly the institute took this work up, understanding its relevance and recognising the opportunities it presents for ‘future-proofing’ conservation. The institute’s reach and influence also enabled a partnership with the African Leadership University and created important links to other initiatives, which has helped to move this work forward.”