Located in Southern Africa, the KAZA (Kavango-Zambezi) region is an extraordinary landscape that spans five countries: Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. This expansive region encompasses an area of approximately 520,000 square kilometres, making it one of the largest conservation areas in the world. The KAZA region is renowned for its exceptional biodiversity, iconic natural landmarks, and its remarkable efforts in uniting conservation and tourism.

Map of the KAZA region. Photo Credit – KAZA Tourism

KAZA TFCA combines 36 formally proclaimed protected areas, including game reserves, forest reserves, game management areas, communal lands and conservation and tourism concession areas. In fact, it’s the world’s largest terrestrial Trans-frontier Conservation Area.

Tourism in the KAZA region

Game driving in the KAZA Region. Photo Credit – Kate Webster

Tourism plays a vital role in the KAZA region’s conservation efforts by generating economic benefits and providing incentives for the preservation of natural resources. The region offers a myriad of wildlife-based experiences, including game drives, guided walks, boat safaris, and cultural interactions. Visitors can witness the awe-inspiring migration of wildlife, explore pristine wilderness areas, and engage with local communities to gain a deeper understanding of the region’s rich cultural heritage.

KAZA TFCA Secretariat and Programme Manager, Netsai Bollmann, spoke to Africa Beat about the importance of the countries working together in tourism.

“Historically, tourism marketing among the KAZA partner countries comprising the Republics of Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe has, for the most part, centred around a single country model based on political boundaries, with each country competing for its market share by using various promotion strategies to attract visitors.”

“The KAZA partner countries, however, in recent years realized that collective or joint marketing of the KAZA region will compliment rather than compete with individual partner country efforts while diversifying tourism offers through capitalizing on the region’s natural and cultural heritage assets and contributing to socio-economic growth and biodiversity conservation.”

“This was the basis for the 5 countries committing to marketing the region as a collective.” 

Conservation and sustainable tourism in KAZA

Wildlife is a drawcard for tourism in the region. Photo Credit – Kate Webster

Sustainable tourism practices are at the forefront of the KAZA region’s tourism strategy. The region promotes low-impact tourism, encouraging responsible behavior among visitors, such as adhering to ethical wildlife viewing guidelines, minimizing waste, supporting local businesses, and respecting the cultural norms and customs of local communities. By embracing sustainable tourism, the KAZA region aims to ensure that tourism activities benefit both conservation efforts and the well-being of local communities.

“KAZA and the tourism sector are interdependent. KAZA is an ideal platform for promoting regional tourism integration and growth in Southern Africa, thereby contributing towards to employment creation, economic diversification, and subsequently to poverty reduction in rural and remote areas adjacent to its major tourism attractions,” Netsai Bollmann explained.

“Conversely, the tourism sector is the largest market-based contributor to financing a significant number of protected areas in KAZA, with the tourism industry in KAZA destinations being almost exclusively dependent on healthy natural and cultural heritage systems, often with wildlife as the primary attraction,” Netsai Bollmann added.

This important international project will raise awareness of lesser-known conservation areas in need of support and protection. It will challenge the traditional safari routes in favour of diversification. It will expand the knowledge of even the most well-versed Africa Specialists, Operators and Guides. It will encourage best practice sharing and community engagement, uplifting those who live along the heart of Africa’s life force, the Kavango and Zambezi rivers. Rivers, that if not protected, will die along with the millions that thrive off it.

One of the key benefits of the KAZA region is its commitment to conservation and sustainable tourism. The five countries that make up the region have collaborated to establish the KAZA Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA), a groundbreaking initiative aimed at preserving biodiversity, protecting ecosystems, and promoting responsible tourism. The TFCA model emphasizes the importance of transboundary cooperation, enabling wildlife to roam freely across borders and ensuring the long-term sustainability of the region’s natural resources.

Conservation efforts in the KAZA region are multifaceted and involve various stakeholders, including local communities, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and the tourism industry. By actively engaging local communities, the region empowers them to participate in conservation efforts, providing alternative livelihood opportunities and fostering a sense of ownership and stewardship over their natural heritage.

Ease of access for travellers 

Botswana – Photo Credit: Kate Webster

The KAZA Secretariat and Partner States have been working together on the establishment of a KAZA Univisa (https://www.kavangozambezi.org/tourist-visa/) – to support ease of movement between the partner countries.

“While uptake has been slow in terms of implementation by all 5 countries, the Univisa has been actively in place between the Republics of Zambia and Zimbabwe for several years – since the announcement of its rollout phase through a Memorandum of Agreement signed between the two countries in December 2016. Zimbabwe and Zambia are, however, currently engaging in response to a recent change in tourist visa requirements in Zambia, which is likely to have implications with respect to implementation of the KAZA Univisa,” Netsai Bollmann said.   

“The KAZA partner countries are, however, committed to working together to address issues relating to ease of movement across the KAZA region,” Netsai Bollmann added.

How to learn more about selling the KAZA region

Sunset over the African bush. Photo Credit – Kate Webster

Africa Beat will be running a KAZA series in the Focus On Feature for the coming months, giving detailed information on how to sell the destination and where to find more information to help with bookings.

During the period January – December 2023, the KAZA Secretariat is implementing three key tourism development and marketing interventions, aimed at applying a comprehensive approach to effectively profiling KAZA as a leading and attractive international tourism destination. These include:

  1. The development of a destination brand and corporate identity – collectively undertaken by the KAZA Secretariat, partner countries, and private sector
  2. A tourism marketing campaign targeting regional and international markets
  3. The establishment of the Great KAZA Birding Route – an initiative to profile key birding areas in KAZA, where they are, how they are accessed, and what services are on offer with respect to birding experiences.

These initiatives will, through partnership-based and collective approaches, package and succinctly communicate the development and conservation story of KAZA, and its wide array of diverse offers – nature, wildlife, and cultural heritage. 

In the meantime, the KAZA Secretariat is on standby to facilitate access to information by tour planners (independent travelers and tourism retailers and wholesalers), working with the national tourism organisations of the 5 partner countries. 

For more on the KAZA region, visit kavangozambezi.org

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