The shocks to the tourism sector resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic show how vulnerable a conservation model that is based on tourism can be, putting jobs and conservation efforts at risk. These shocks come on top of the pressures of illegal wildlife trade, which is undermining the many successful community conservation initiatives that have thrived in Southern and Eastern Africa over the past 30 years, reducing wildlife populations, but also the income that supplements the livelihoods of Africa’s extensive rural populations.

The WWF Beyond Tourism initiative is geared towards seeking new revenue models that enable both the professional conservation sector and communities to derive income from wildlife, and manage their natural resources sustainably. Examples of this are conservation friendly businesses, certification schemes, payment for ecosystem services schemes and innovative finance solutions such as impact investing and Wildlife Credits. Our overall ambition is to develop a conservation-finance model that is less dependent on tourism and hunting. 

The Africa Beyond Tourism initiative is technically supported by the WWF Wildlife and Markets Practices, and in particular, the Nature Pays Hub, with financial support provided by WWF Germany and WWF UK.

Newsletter May 2023
© Simon Hurry/ Unsplash


A landmark study on alternative financing options was commissioned by Luc Hoffman Institute and WWF in 2019.
While this and other studies mentioned below revealed a number of models and options that challenge the current status quo, there are in reality only a limited number of operational, mostly locally relevant models that demonstrate the potential for upscaling.



A broader scan of wildlife economy options was furthermore undertaken as part of the Wildlife in the Economy research project by our partner, the Africa Leadership University.


Additionally, a more detailed viability analysis was undertaken in partnership with the Nelson Mandela CARMa-Africa program, with case studies on a range of potential solutions.


© / John Downer / WWF


© Scott Ramsay

Testing and Piloting: New Start-ups

A number of WWF programmes are testing and developing models for nature-based economic and livelihood opportunities. These practical landscape-level test-cases will inform the true potential for ‘beyond tourism’ nature-based. For example, feasibility studies for carbon credit schemes and non-timber products are being launched for both SOKNOT and Ruvuma landscapes, and the Virunga landscape is testing a gorilla-friendly certification scheme for sustainable products derived from the landscape.

© Francois Carre/WWF

Wildlife Credits

WWF Namibia and WWF Kenya are developing and testing the model of Wildlife Credits as a means of providing cash incentives for community contributions to wildlife and nature management. Wildlife credits is already operational in Namibia, but we are currently starting to test it in the SOKNOT landscape in Kenya.

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© Kanabora/ WWF Tanzania

Nature Pays

For conservation to be effective, local communities must benefit from conservation efforts. This is the understanding at the heart of WWF’s Nature Pays initiative, which helps communities set up and run small enterprises that support conservation, including activities such as ecotourism and handicraft production.  

Communities organized around sustainable enterprises are powerful allies for conservation. By providing communities with a long-term economic benefit, they can build support for conservation, while providing positive outcomes for both people and nature.

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The Innovation Challenge

The Beyond Tourism Innovation Challenge, led by WWF Regional Office for Africa, in association with the Luc Hoffmann Institute, WWF Norway, and the Africa Leadership University, is an attempt to further reach out to partners on viable ideas.

The Innovation Challenge generated over 300 applications across a wide range of potential solutions. Meanwhile, the 15 winners of the Challenge have gone through a business incubation programme facilitated by the project partners. Several of them have secured start-up funding through this process.

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© Nikhil Advani / WWF-US

African Nature-based Tourism Platform

With $1,903,000 in funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the African Nature-Based Tourism Platform is a project that will connect funders to the communities and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) most in need of funding support. The project has the goal of mobilizing at least $15 million to support communities and SMEs in Covid-19 emergency relief efforts and to build greater resilience into the nature-based tourism business model into the future. 

The African Nature-Based Tourism Platform releases country summary reports on the project's focal geographies which include Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, providing a snapshot of key findings from the data that we have collected from communities and SMEs.

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