Economic drivers and effects of the illegal wildlife trade in Sub Saharan Africa

Question

What are the economic drivers, and economic effects, of the illegal wildlife trade (excluding fish and forestry products) in Sub Saharan Africa?

Summary

The drivers behind the illegal wildlife trade (IWT) in Sub Saharan Africa are varied and complex; varying over time and from one location or sector to another, and depending on the type of commodities and crime involved. Therefore caution should be taken when discussing these drivers. Broadly, the main economic drivers behind the IWT in Sub Saharan Africa include: increasing demand in consumer countries in East Asia; poverty in source countries; lack of alternative livelihoods and subsistence in source countries; and cultural and colonial legacies in Sub Saharan Africa. Furthermore, there are a number of enabling factors that encourage the IWT in Sub Saharan Africa which include: weak governance; corruption; failures in regulation; and failures in enforcement. Impacts on poor countries and people in Sub Saharan Africa from the IWT are not well studied or fully quantified. The effects vary widely, can be both positive and negative, and are not evenly distributed among people in a community or country. Generally, IWT has a net positive short-term impact on individuals, and a net negative long-term impact on communities and countries as a whole.

Key findings

  • Motivations for the IWT vary greatly from location to location, depending on the actors involved and the goods being traded; it is particularly challenging as it involves multiple dimensions, including poverty, governance and is often hidden in legal trade.
  • Generally, wealth rather than poverty was found to be the ultimate driver in IWT, in that individuals from poor communities would not engage in the poaching of commercially valuable species unless there was demand from wealthier communities/countries.
  • The role of the colonial history of separation of people and wildlife in driving wildlife crime is an important yet often overlooked factor.
  • By its nature IWT is clandestine, hence empirical evidence and the evidentiary base for policy discussion is often weak and so the ability to fully answer the question is limited.
  • Strength of evidence from different Sub Saharan African countries varied greatly and there are few in depth studies into drivers of IWT in these countries as a whole (Kenya and Uganda were the exceptions). Case studies are often specific to the particular location studied within the country (often around protected areas or National Parks).
  • Impacts on poor countries and people in Sub Saharan Africa from the IWT are not well studied or fully quantified. The effects vary widely, can be both positive and negative, and are not evenly distributed among people in a community or country. Generally, IWT has a net positive short-term impact on individuals, and a net negative long-term impact on communities and countries as a whole.

Enquirer:

Suggested citation

Price, R.A. (2017). Economic drivers and effects of the illegal wildlife trade in Sub Saharan Africa. K4D Helpdesk Report. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies.