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A son of teachers, Kaddu Sebunya was introduced to international affairs and global issues early in life—an introduction that initially started him on a career focused on rural development and humanitarian relief.

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Photo Credit: Peter Chira via AWF

While studying in France, however, the Ugandan native became more attuned to issues around the environment. He eventually earned a masters of science in sustainable resource management and policy from the Imperial College of London and went on to work for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (or IUCN) and Conservation International, among other organizations. Most recently, he was leading the USAID/Uganda Biodiversity Program for AWF. In January, Sebunya was appointed president of AWF, responsible for advocating for wildlife as part of Africa’s future. Following are his thoughts on his new role.

Q: Congratulations on becoming AWF president! What will be your primary responsibility in this new position?

A: Thank you. I am excited to be stepping into this role at a time when the continent is developing rapidly and decisions are being made about how Africa will manage its natural resources going forward. In addition to explaining the AWF mission, as AWF president, it will be my responsibility to inspire African leadership at every level to incorporate wildlife and conservation into a vision for the continent’s future. We want to build a network of supporters for AWF’s mission across Africa, leveraging our already successful technical programmatic efforts to show why wildlife conservation is so important for Africa.

Q: Why should AWF take on an advocacy role on the continent?

A: The African continent is moving into rapid economic modernization. This reality will challenge AWF’s mission and in particular pose threats to Africa’s wildlife and wild land conservation as competition increases exponentially between people and wildlife for food and space. The search for ways to safeguard Africa’s environmental future in sustainable ways is more urgent than ever before. At the same time, public funding agencies and businesses are increasingly recognizing that conservation and development are often inherently compatible and have mutually supporting goals. The divisions that once separated the conservation and development communities are breaking down. It is therefore timely to strengthen our advocacy now—and as the oldest, largest and most truly African environmental organization, AWF is in a unique position to ensure wildlife and wild lands thrive in a modern Africa.

Q: What would you say are the most critical conservation issues Africa is now facing?

A: In many parts of the continent, food production lags behind population growth, famine strikes with dreadful persistence, soils are degrading, and wild lands, forests and trees are disappearing at unprecedented rates. While some people may argue that AWF’s mission is narrower in perspective in the context of socioeconomic development, the reality is that the issues surrounding wildlife and wild land management are inseparable from Africa’s broader crisis of population, food, poverty, land and natural resource management. Africa’s economic development is intertwined with the conservation of Africa’s wildlife and other natural resources, and vice versa. Increasingly leaders understand this—but many have yet to act upon it. I look forward to building a true African network for conservation.

(This article originally appeared on AWF. It has been reprinted here with permission.)

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