iSimangaliso Wetland Park and Kruger National Park leadership are this week locked together in conversation at Skukuza, in a three-day knowledge and ideas exchange session which started on Monda, 10 May 2021. Kruger National Park is South Africa’s largest National Park, and iSimangaliso Wetland Park is the second largest (and was also declared South Africa’s first World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1999).
The meeting of these two giants is expected to bring about results which will improve conservation and tourism in a country badly affected by COVID-19. Tourism is an important source of revenue and employment, and an important contributor to GDP in the country. iSimangaliso is on a drive to reposition itself, and will be hosting an investment summit on the 26 August 2021 at iSibaya Casino, as part of the implementation of its commercialisation strategy. The planned summit has already attracted the interest of keen investors from around the country, and across the world.
Sharing his long-term vision, Mr Sibusiso Bukhosini, the CEO of iSimangaliso Wetland Park, said “it’s time now that we make conservation relevant, through ecotourism, to the economy of the country, and make it a catalyst not only to fight the enemies of poverty, unemployment and inequality, but to ensure sustainability and lessen dependency on fiscal coffers.
Umkhanyakude district, where iSimangaliso is situated, is predominantly rural and has no resident industries. Umkhanyakude is considered amongst the 10 districts in South Africa with the highest multi-poverty index (MPI). The majority of the population live below the poverty line, with about 42.8% of unemployment – a situation which calls for urgent attention and cooperation by all institutions in power.
The planned iSimangaliso August 26 investment summit will provide a platform to local, national, and international interest groups to grab various business opportunities available across iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Investment opportunities ranges from small to big projects such as building and running tourism facilities that will include resorts, lodges, bush camps and product offerings. Preparatory steps will include road shows with a government business wing to surrounding municipalities and communities, where the plan will be clearly outlined. Its aim is to reach a minimum of 40% threshold to the previously disadvantaged.
The management of South African National Parks welcomed this ground-breaking initiative, and also committed to working closely with the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority, and to sharing expertise, to accelerate projects. The results of this can only bring a “wow” experience to visitors whether visiting the Kruger Park or iSimangaliso Wetland Park.