SANParks is hoping to increase its revenue from public-private partnerships to just under R1,2 billion (€82.3m) per annum by 2040, while also growing annual visitors at national parks to just under 17 million guests.

SANParks CEO, Fundisile Mketeni, shared these ambitious goals with members of the private sector gathered at the SANParks Investment Summit on Tuesday morning.

In the most recent financial year, public-private partnerships contributed R101 million (€6.93m), while R817 million (€56m) was generated from these partnerships to date. Mketeni explained that SANParks had entered into 45 public-private partnerships since the organisation started its commercialisation strategy in 2010.

Currently, the national parks receive 6,6 million domestic and international visitors a year. SANParks will need to sustain an average annual growth in visitors of 10% to reach the target.

Mketenti said private partnerships were crucial to sustaining and funding SANParks’ conservation initiatives.

Joanne Yawitch, Chairperson of the SANParks board, said SANParks had opted to host an investment summit instead of advertising and sending out requests for proposals because it wanted to have a discussion with the private sector from the onset, which would inform its development goals and ensure that the requests for proposals met the needs of industry and SANParks.

Environmental Affairs Minister, Edna Molewa, also emphasised the need for tourism to fund conservation. She added that tourism was an important economic driver that created jobs, particularly in rural areas that border South Africa’s national parks. “We cannot rely solely on the fiscus for money for conservation,” she said.

Molewa added that, in line with the radical social economic transformation outlined by President Jacob Zuma, the state would be driving transformation. She said empowering small and medium enterprises was a key objective, as was supporting rural and township enterprises.

Minister of Tourism, Tokozile Xasa, said that, as part of the new growth path, government’s objective was to ensure that growth was inclusive. She said it was imperative for large enterprises to partner with smaller enterprises to support their growth in the sector.