Background: When we think of Africa, images of lions, giraffes, and hungry hippos come to mind —Africa is rich in biodiversity and iconic wildlife. Its savannahs and forests sequester carbon, protect the climate, and provide livelihoods for millions. It is also home to world-class sustainable tourism, that directly and indirectly supports the protection of those precious lands and animals as well as the communities that surround them. Events that have the potential to slow or halt global tourism footfall, like the COVID-19 pandemic, threaten both local livelihoods and conservation across the continent.
Action: Recognizing the potential threat to conservation efforts from consistent fluctuations in tourism footfall The Nature Conservancy (TNC) – through its Africa Program and NatureVest impact investment team – and ThirdWay Partners (ThirdWay) announced the development of the US$70m Africa Conservation and Communities Tourism Fund (ACCT Fund). The ACCT Fund is an innovative collaboration that adopts an impact-first approach to demonstrate how driving sustainable investment into the conservation tourism sector can benefit some of the continent’s most ecologically important landscapes and their surrounding communities. The ACCT Fund completed its final close in April 2023.
The ACCT Fund provides loans to responsible tourism operators that create local jobs and support long-term conservation efforts in Africa. The loans are structured to offer flexible payment options and fair interest rates to help these businesses survive fluctuations in tourism footfall while still being able to afford their contributions to conservation and communities.
Impact: In addition to providing flexible support to tourism operators across economic cycles, the ACCT Fund also supports the growth of conservation tourism in important wildlife areas as operators look to improve existing camps and develop new ones. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many operators endured over a year with limited to no meaningful revenue, leading to the suspension of crucial projects. The ACCT Fund is offering a timely source of financing to support the industry’s recovery and expansion.
Future: The future of the ACCT Fund includes continued financial support for the conservation tourism industry's expansion, to support more benefits for people and biodiversity. Additionally, where feasible, support is being offered to operators to go into unutilized or underutilized conservation areas to drive incremental conservation and community benefits. This work in Africa shows how alignment can be found between economic prosperity, conservation, and community. The ACCT Fund is a replicable model that could be used to drive conservation elsewhere. We look forward to sharing our knowledge with the wider market on how to create similar projects that can benefit conservation and communities.
* Legal name: Africa Conservation and Communities Tourism Fund, SCSP SICAV-RAIF