Katima Mulilo, Namibia: The ambitious Kavango Zambezi Trans Frontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) was officially launched here amid pomp and ceremony on Thursday March 15, 2011 in the scenic town of Katima Mulilo, in the Caprivi Region of Namibia.
Hordes of cabinet ministers, Chiefs from all five partner countries, ambassadors and the general public flocked to the Katima football stadium where the launching ceremony was held, officiated upon by ministers responsible for environment, natural resources, wildlife and tourism from the five partner countries of Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The official launch of the KAZA was the culmination of an idea initially mooted in July 2003 when, on July 24th, the relevant ministers met in Katima Mulilo to discuss about the big project “to encourage ownership by the five countries and reflect the priorities established by these countries”.
That meeting articulated a clear vision for the KAZA TFCA as: “To establish a world-class transfrontier conservation area and tourism destination in the Okavango and Zambezi River Basin regions (of the five countries) within the context of sustainable development.”
Spanning over 444, 000 square kilometres, the KAZA TFCA is more than the combined size of Italy and Greece in land area and has the potential to become the world’s largest conservation area.
“The quest for regional collaboration in the areas of natural resources and tourism development and management dates as far back as the 1990s,” said Kitso Mokaila, Botswana’s minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism. “As KAZA partner countries, we have emphasized in the KAZA Treaty, which is being celebrated today, that we will own and lead the planning and development process of the TFCA. We take recognisance of the fact that our land and other natural resources are a valuable heritage of the five partner countries.”
Angola, still handicapped by landmines from its long drawn out civil war, hosted the meeting which was the cornerstone of KAZA TFCA on December 7th, 2006.
Namibia, the hosting country for the launch, is fittingly the only country that shares physical borders with all other four partner countries.
During the launch, the five countries “reaffirmed their commitment to regional economic integration through sustainable management of transboundary natural resources and tourism development”.
“The KAZA TFCA was established with the overall goal of enhancing regional economic integration through sustainable transboundary management of natural resources and tourism development,” said Given Lubinda, Zambia’s minister of Foreign Affairs and Tourism in a speech read on his behalf by his deputy. “The dream of the KAZA partner countries, which is in line with SADC goal of regional development, can only best be realised in an environment where all key stakeholders, especially our local communities, our valuable biodiversity and investors live in secure and safe environment.”
SADC’s Executive Secretary, Dr Tomaz Salamao, attended the ceremony as well.
“I would like to commend you for having successfully negotiated the KAZA TFCA Treaty,” he said. “The Treaty is indeed a commendable achievement and a door to further milestones that have the potential to change the lives of communities who live in the KAZA TFCA area for better.”
Salamao added that the coming together of the five countries to jointly manage the TFCA “is a true symbol of regional integration”, one of SADC’s goals.