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July 18, 2020 marks the 11th Anniversary of Mandela Day, an annual celebration of the legacy of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela on his day of birth. As disadvantaged communities across the world are disproportionately affected by the spread of Covid-19, the theme of this year’s Mandela Day—#actionagainstpoverty—could not be more fitting. When economies begin to rebuild, there is a powerful sentiment that we cannot go back to how our world functioned before 2020.

We, as a society, have never been more aware of a collective responsibility that we all share through our individual power to transform the world for good. From consumer purchasing habits to choosing which businesses to support, it is abundantly clear that we want to invest in and support sustainable projects that are a positive force for change at an environmental and social level.

We are proud to be able to contribute to this global call for action by highlighting the sustainable benefits of our public–private partnership with South African National Parks (SAN Parks) that define the very nature of our work inside the Kruger National Park.

In 2002, we were delighted to be awarded as the concessioners of the Mluwati Concession, which is one of just 8 concessions within the Kruger National Park and one of only 12 concessions within South Africa’s National Parks. A concession is a lease of a designated area within a national park that is awarded by SAN Parks for ecotourism operations. It is awarded in a highly competitive and transparent manner through a number of processes. As a public–private partnership, it is beneficial for all of our stakeholders: our business, local community, government, and our environment. The basic principle of our concession is to add or create value to a biodiverse area by empowering the local community to build a landmark tourist destination that will generate income for the local community, for conservation, and for ecotourism.

At a larger level, South Africa has benefited tremendously from this form of public-private partnership. According to a report by the World Bank in 2016, concessions in the Kruger National Park generated US $58 million for conservation and the empowerment of local communities through tourism concession fees alone.

The ultimate benefit of our partnership highlights one of Nelson Mandela’s biggest goals of creating a “Nation Where All of Us are Winners, All of Us Have Shelter, Food and Education”. Ecotourism is one of the fastest growing sectors in the global tourism industry with an estimated growth rate of 10–15%. Yet, it is often the case that local communities become displaced from their indigenous lands for the purposes of ecotourism, specifically in areas where there is no legislative framework to the protect the rights of the local community. Regina Scheyvens, a researcher of Global Studies at Massey University, notes that it is not enough to compensate local communities for the loss of access to resources that they suffer when ecotourism destinations are created. She notes that “a community-based approach to ecotourism [must recognise] the need to promote both the quality of life of people and the conservation of resources”.

Our Concession is built on a joint philosophy—shared by the Mluwati Team, our local communities, and SAN Parks—that we can engage in sustainable ecotourism in a manner that creates sustainable benefits for all of our stakeholders. As our collective society, emerges out of the dark times of lockdown, we will continue to strive to do, and enhance, our small part in helping to transform the world we live in for the better with renewed vigour, hope, and empathy. Happy Mandela Day!

Warm Wishes,
The Mluwati Concession Team