The GDSA: Mainstreaming natural capital in public and private sectors across Africa

The GDSA: Mainstreaming natural capital in public and private sectors across Africa
News & Blog | Blog Posted 25.08.17 by Dr. Kim Reuter

The Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa

The Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa (GDSA) was launched in 2012 following the Summit for Sustainability held in Gaborone, Botswana. This summit – attended by ten African governments and their heads of state – launched a vision for sustainable development that has helped highlight the issue of natural capital depletion across a growing continent. The resulting Declaration commits member countries to make progress towards the following three commitments:

Commitment 1: Integrating the value of natural capital into national accounting and corporate planning and reporting processes, policies and programs.

Commitment 2: Building social capital and reducing poverty by transitioning agriculture, extractive industries, fisheries and other natural capital uses to practices that promote sustainable employment, food security, sustainable energy and the protection of natural capital through protected areas and other mechanisms. 

Commitment 3: Building knowledge, data, capacity and policy networks to promote leadership and new models in the field of sustainable development, and to increase momentum for positive change. 

As of July 2017, the GDSA has grown to 12 countries, whose boundaries house 306 million people, 15.3 billion metric tons of carbon stocks, and 3,500+ threatened plant, fish, bird, and mammal species. The GDSA has been endorsed by the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) – who in 2016 encouraged their member states to join the GDSA – and several other global and regional platforms. The GDSA has worked with 20+ partners across the GDSA member countries, and entities managing over USD$118 million in projects have publicly linked their work to the GDSA. These entities have used the GDSA as evidence for a need or demand for their work, or have indicated that the GDSA has provided the mandate for action.

GDSA member countries in Africa. Green countries include the original Declaration signatories while countries in blue are countries that joined after the 2012 Declaration signing.  

The GDSA and promoting natural capital accounting in the public sector

Natural Capital Accounting (NCA) is commonly defined as the measurement of stocks of natural resources (both renewable and non-renewable) and the flows of benefits they provide. NCA seeks to capture and integrate the contribution of nature into the systems that the private and public sectors use to make decisions. Under commitment one, the GDSA works to promote NCA progress in the public sector through by working together with partners to add value to ongoing work. For example, the GDSA Secretariat organizes side events at international forums and organizes workshops and training opportunities for member countries.

The GDSA member countries have made significant progress towards implementing their GDSA commitments compared to non-GDSA countries in Africa. In 2012, GDSA and non-GDSA countries were equally likely to have ongoing natural capital accounting (NCA) initiatives. However, by 2017, GDSA countries were significantly more likely than 37 other countries in Africa to have initiated work on NCA. Moreover, 11 of the 12 GDSA countries explicitly link their NCA work to the GDSA, noting that the work fulfills the GDSA commitments.

The GDSA and mainstreaming natural capital into private sector decision-making

In the private sector, the Natural Capital Protocol is setting the standard for the integration of nature into business decision-making; businesses across the world, including in Rwanda, have participated in piloting the protocol, which was developed with the help of Conservation International’s scientists. The GDSA is a member of the Natural Capital Coalition, which developed the Natural Capital Protocol. As a member of the Coalition, the GDSA spreads awareness of the protocol across member countries. Most recently, the GDSA organized a breakfast dialogue with the Coalition and five other partners at the Responsible Business Forum in Johannesburg. The purpose of the meeting, was to increase awareness about the concept of natural capital in the private sector and encourage dialogue among industry leaders.

Looking forward: the work of the GDSA Secretariat

To achieve the outcomes of the Gaborone Declaration, the GDSA Secretariat will continue to partner with a range of entities to promote progress on natural capital accounting. In particular, the Secretariat will work to articulate linkages between the GDSA and other global and regional frameworks (such as the Sustainable Development Goals), establish partnerships to support the transition to a green economy and sustainable development in Africa, scope and identify flagship examples of implementation efforts by member countries, and using learning exchanges to amplify good practices across member countries.

Via implementing partners, the GDSA will promote program and project-level activities at the local, national and regional levels on the GDSA outcomes, including natural capital accounting. These activities will be supported through donor funding and will deliver concrete results that improve livelihoods and achieve development targets in collaboration with partners across GDSA countries.

The GDSA will be hosting a coffee gathering at the World Forum on Natural Capital for participants from Africa. Follow @NatCapForum on Twitter to stay up-to-date with developments. 


Dr. Kim Reuter, Technical Director of the Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa (GDSA). The functions of the GDSA Secretariat have been delegated to Conservation International until December 2018 by the Government of Botswana. More information can be found online:



Share this page: