KAMPALA, UGANDA: On July 29, 2021, the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife, and Antiquities launched an online Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Electronic permit system to regulate the trade in wildlife and wildlife products, making Uganda the eighth country in Africa and the first in East Africa to develop the system. The system was launched by Honourable Tom Butime, Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities at Protea Hotel, Kampala. The CITES Electronic permit system launch was graced by Her Excellence the U.S. Ambassador to Uganda, Natalie E. Brown, Ambassador Attilio Pacifici, Head of the European Union Delegation in Uganda, Doreen Katusiime (Mrs), Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Haruko Okusu, the Chief of the Outreach and Projects Unit at the CITES Secretariat who attended virtually, Dr. Simon Nampindo, Country Director of Wildlife Conservation Society, heads of government agencies, partners, private sector, and several virtual participants.
Uganda, like many other countries, has been using a paper-based system of certification and permit issuance. However, this system has been prone to forgeries and takes more time to process and verify requests. As a result, it has made it difficult to mitigate illegal wildlife trade and protect threatened populations of some of the most iconic wildlife species like elephants, leopards, undermining Uganda’s tourism sector and national security.
The development of this system was made possible with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) that is implementing the Combating Wildlife Crime Activity. The system aims to control legal trade in wildlife and prevent illegal trade of specimens through the issuance of electronic permits and licenses for trade (permits for import, export, and re-export in wildlife species in conformity with CITES.
The electronic system will also enable various CITES focal points and law enforcement agencies to review permit applications and share real-time information on the progression of applications through various stages. “It is therefore prudent that we are on top of implementing the CITES convention to ensure that trade in authorized species is not compromised. We also need to ensure that we do not compromise species that are endangered or threatened” posited Dr. Simon Nampindo, Country Director of the WCS Uganda Program.
“As the CITES Management Authority, Uganda’s Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife, and Antiquities is mandated to ensure that trade in wildlife is sustainable and legal. This is done through the issuance of CITES permits upon recommendation by the appropriate government authority - the Uganda Wildlife Authority for wild animals, the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries for ornamental fish, and the Ministry of Water and Environment for plants of wild origin – the CITES scientific authorities whose responsibility is to ensure that trade in particular animal or plant species is not detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild,” said Honorable Tom Butime, Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities.
“The launch of this system shows that Uganda is among the few African countries spearheading the automated CITES E-permitting system on the continent. As far as the CITES Secretariat is aware, there is just over a dozen countries in the world that have confirmed to have in place an electronic system for some part of their issuance permit management, while over 30 to 40 countries are currently developing or planning to develop such a system. You can now appreciate that Uganda’s effort is going to show a valuable example to the global community of the CITES parties,” said Haruko Okusu, the Chief of the Outreach and Projects Unit at the CITES Secretariat located in North Europe, in a speech delivered virtually.
“In the European Union, we have regular legal imports of CITES-listed species from Uganda, mainly Prunus africana (African cherry, in particular its bark) for pharmaceutical purposes but also some reptile species. Therefore, we look forward to a time when we will be able to exchange permit data in an electronic manner, which will help us all to jointly ensure that trade of wildlife remains sustainable, easily traceable and follows legal avenues,” said Ambassador Attilio Pacifici, Head of the European Union Delegation in Uganda.
“The development of the CITES e-permit system is one of several interventions WCS and its partners are implementing under the USAID/Uganda’s Combating Wildlife Crime Activity to reduce wildlife crime and strengthen biodiversity conservation in Uganda. The United States is committed to making it harder for poachers, traffickers, and dealers to engage in wildlife crime,” said the U.S. Ambassador to Uganda Natalie E. Brown. “The government of Uganda must make the fight against corruption, including within the trade in natural resources and wildlife, a top priority. Given the lucrative nature of wildlife trade, the integrity of those entrusted with the responsibility to manage resources is vital to combat illicit activities,” she added.