Open letter to Africa’s leaders on Africa Day

Corruption is rife at every point along the trade chain and the lack of active and ethical governance practices directly threatens the tourism sector of many African countries.Dear African Leader,

I would like to take this opportunity, on Africa Day 2015, to urge you, as an African Leader, to take just five minutes to reflect on something rather important for your country. While you might argue that if it doesn’t concern poverty alleviation, job creation, health, education, or any other national priority, it is not worth pondering.

But I am going to ask that you stay with me because, in fact, this is the one single issue that has a significant bearing on every aspect of your nation’s future sustainability and the well-being of your people and you can do something about it.

It is the dreaded “G” word.


For the purpose of this call to action, I would like you to consider governance in the context of your country’s natural resources, tourism and GDP and ask that you reflect on the following statement:

It is estimated that up to 30,000 elephants are killed each year for their ivory.

What is the connection, you might ask and what on earth does this have to do with governance?

There are many drivers of the illegal wildlife trade, including escalating demand for wildlife products such as ivory and rhino horn, inadequate enforcement capacity and the emergence of more organised and sophisticated criminal networks involved in this trade. We know this.

But what people do not know is that corruption is rife at every point along the trade chain and the lack of active and ethical governance practices directly threatens your tourism sector, not to mention the welfare of the animals that support this industry and the macro-economic health of your country. 

If you are one of the leaders of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Angola, Cameroon, Congo, DRC, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Mozambique and Nigeria, your country has been labelled by the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) as one of the countries that is driving the illicit trade in ivory.

I would thus urge you, as a matter of national urgency, to take immediate and drastic action to deal with the killing of elephants and rhinos and the illegal trade in ivory and horn. This means that you will have to deal with matters of governance and corruption from the bottom up and from the top down.    

If you are one of the leaders of South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe, you might not be aware that your country is implicit in pushing for trade in ivory to be legalised. In the case of South Africa, you are also pushing for the trade in rhino horn to be legalised.

What this means, in effect, is that you are promoting the mass slaughter of elephants and rhinos that we are witnessing in Africa today. The experiment of trying to regulate the trade in ivory has come and gone and has failed. Any attempts to reinstate a legal trade today are fuelling the killing and illicit trade. I thus urge you to please take a stand on this and join the international voice to stop the slaughter.

It is time to be a part of the solution and not the problem.

Yours respectfully,

Jason Bell

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Elsayed Ahmed Mohamed, Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Pauline Verheij, Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
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Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Country Representative, Germany
Country Representative, Germany
Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
Director, EU Office
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy