Wayne Lotter’s Death, Illicit African Ivory & Despotic Kingdoms

When Wayne Lotter was murdered in route to his hotel in Dar es Saalam, he was fighting pitched battles against Africa’s weak institutions and perennially corrupt regimes.  Brave throughout his life, Lotter suffered for his conviction that illicit African ivory must be stopped.  After talking to investigators in South Africa, he began developing, fielding a reporting network of spies as an early warning system.  But Asia’s desire for ivory overwhelmed east Africa’s weak political economies.  He was murdered after being tracked and shadowed from agents favorable to east Asian regimes like China and North Korea.  In the end, Lotter’s death reveals how the west can assist east African reformers in strengthening the very institutions needed to thwart the Han masters in Beijing and their cohorts throughout Asia.

Strengthening the rule of law would coincide with meaningful economic and land based reform.  Since 1968, regulated hunting was introduced onto private property in both South Africa and Namibia.  Wildlife numbers have grown sixfold.

What is the alternative to regulated trophy hunting?  It isn’t manufacturing; given the speed of vertical integration that accompanies fractured world supply chains, Africa cannot wait to duplicate China’s rise.  The source of African renewal will come from within, from reforms that unleash service based industry.  Any initial view of Africa’s own illicit market behavior reveals a startling contrast to official Keynesian markets aligned with tax credits and other failed schemes.

Even tourism, once thought to be Africa’s panacea has hit a wall.  Across a continent of 538,000 square miles, twice the size of Texas, is used for official hunting.  Tourism cannot hope to compete with Africa’s illicit markets, for it remains capital intensive.  How can paved roads, restaurants, accommodations, multi-lingual staff, hospitals, airports and wi-fi reveal the immediate future.  Without transforming Africa’s illicit markets, African economies will remain stagnant, even possibly returning to overgrazed dusty cattle farms that remain unfit for even subsistence farming.

Lotter would often politely admonish westerners who pushed for conservation, openly opining how hard it is for poor African’s to muster the political will to conserve animals when they don’t have enough food, shelter or financial stability.  Even the possibility of converting large habitats to farmland isn’t viable given large expenditures required to move, sell or relocate natural habitats.

Here’s an old, hard truth that westerns cannot handle, yet remains true throughout Africa:  “Africa’s inconvenient truth is that wild spaces rarely ever occur without the presence of economic incentives.”  

This isn’t the green neocolonialism attributed to Rosie Cooney.  By linking wildlife advocacy to strong African nation states with strong legal cultures, its possible to begin seeding an emerging infrastructure that we see in Botswana. Hunting reserves, if linked to viable serviced based economies can inflect other economies throughout Africa.

Here’s one way to look at it:  when the animals are dead and their tracks paved over with malls and other failed centralized macro-schemes, the animals are never coming back.


About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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