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A chat on KAZA TFCA with Mr. Kaseke

The goal of the KAZA TFCA is “To sustainably manage the Kavango Zambezi ecosystem, its heritage and cultural resources based on best conservation and tourism models for the socio-economic wellbeing of the communities and other stakeholders in and around the eco-region through harmonization of policies, strategies and practices.”

Our Vision “To establish a world-class transfrontier conservation and tourism destination area in the Okavango and Zambezi River Basin regions of Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe within the context of sustainable development.

The cornerstone of the KAZA TFCA was laid on 7th December 2006 when the Ministers responsible for environment, natural resources, wildlife and tourism in the Republics of Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to negotiate and work towards the establishment of the TFCA

Our Mission “To sustainably manage the Kavango Zambezi ecosystem, its heritage and cultural resources based on best conservation and tourism models for the socio-economic wellbeing of the communities and other stakeholders in and around the eco-region through harmonization of policies, strategies and practices.”

The recognition of the KAZA TFCA as a Southern African Development Community (SADC) project in July 2006 means it is a programme encapsulating the SADC vision of regional integration and the SADC objectives for promoting the wise use of natural resources and effective protection of the natural environment.

We caught with Mr. Karikoga Kaseke, the Zimbabwe Tourism Association chief executive officer, to have a brief assessment on the success and challenges of the KAZA to the region far.

How has the KAZA benefitted the region as a destination?

The Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) with 440 000 square kilometers of land has been recognized as the world’s largest conservation area and is home to a number of top tourist attractions. The area is renowned for its spectacular biodiversity and natural landscapes. World-renowned wetlands, rivers, wildlife in and out of the water, birds, trees and other plant life are just some of the exciting attractions on display. Close to 50 percent of Africa’s elephants roam the area and more than 800 bird species are at home here.

As with other TFCA initiatives, KAZA’s benefits are ecological, cultural, political, socio-economic and institutional. The level of cooperation between the five partner countries (Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe) has been tremendous with all partner countries attending periodic meetings to reflect on the progress being made to establish KAZA and roll out the TFCA development programmes.

Furthermore, the TFCA spurred the development of cross border tourism products as well as extensive research on the region. The major focus for the KAZA partners is to preserve the biodiversity that extends across all borders. A potential benefit is the re-establishment of traditional wildlife corridors that were cut off due to the establishment of borders. Elephant populations currently centred in small areas will be able to migrate and repopulate their former home ranges, enhancing the wildlife populations.

The KAZA TFCA partner countries recognize that tourism is a key driver for the socioeconomic progress of local communities. The five respective governments believe that by supporting community members – inherently the custodians of the resources within the KAZA area – issues such as wildlife conflicts can be tackled jointly. Thus communities will be able to benefit directly from being custodians and protectors of their natural surroundings.

Tourism operators are enthusiastic about the KAZA TFCA insofar as local people benefit, conservation benefits, and wildlife is the winner.

The involvement of five countries, means that marketing will be much easier for the KAZA region as there will be combined efforts towards a block of countries instead of one individual country.

More importantly, the KAZA TFCA has led to the birth of KAZA Univisa which is currently operational between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Other three partner countries are expected to join the Univisa regime any time. The introduction of KAZA Univisa is meant to eliminate constraints that were being experienced in facilitating cross-border tourism development.

KAZA UNIVISA is one of the initiatives that will contribute immensely to regional tourism growth by allowing travelers to easily move across the Partner Countries, without having to apply for an entry visa into each country. The univisa cuts on time and cost spend on acquiring the visa. Thus the initiative is expected to increase tourist arrivals and the period of stay in the region and ultimately increase tourism receipts and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the region. As tourism increases in the region it will either directly or indirectly see increased employment creation and improved community livelihoods.

In a nutshell, the KAZA TFCA has created a regional competitive destination, “Five Countries, One Destination”.

What are some of the challenges of such partnerships?

Some of the main challenges include;

  • the vast geographical extent of KAZA;
  • a large and growing human population and its ensuing demand on the land resource;
  • a mosaic of land uses within the TFCA – pastoral and agricultural;
  • rapid land transformation;
  • weak infrastructure in remote areas;
  • diversity of stakeholders with different interests and objectives;
  • a myriad of implementation activities at the national and regional levels;
  • Disparities in the capacities and capabilities of the partner countries.

The above listed challenges makes the partnership of such nature of KAZA TFCA not easy to implement.

On another hand, the KAZA Univisa experienced quite a number of technical challenges, for which it is hoped that they will be solved through embedding of the UNIVISA system into the National Border Management Systems. Probably for the challenges experienced in KAZA Univisa implementation, the other three partner countries are still to come on board.

The Kaza Univisa has been a popular choice with travellers entering Zimbabwe or Zambia, as it allows for a single visa to be obtained for multiple visits to both countries.

It is advised that travellers purchase a double-entry visa upon arrival in either country, which will allow for their return into that country should they be wishing to embark on any cross-border activities – for example, if they intend to visit both the Zimbabwean and Zambian sides of the Victoria Falls, or intend to enter Botswana for a Chobe Day Trip, and then return to Zimbabwe/Zambia.

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