The management and control of IAS present some important challenges for decision-makers. Globally, preventing their introduction is seen as the cornerstone of effective measures for dealing with IAS. This approach is believed to be the most cost-effective and environmentally-sound approach as once an invasive species becomes established, eradication may be impossible and ecological damage irreversible (Shrine and others 2000). This obligation to control IAS needs to be balanced against international trade obligations as well as social and economic concerns. Developing systems for making sound choices must be a priority for African governments.

Although the NEPAD-EAP identifies IAS as an important programme area, it is not clear how it will be addressed. The development of programmes and strategies will need to be based on a comprehensive analysis of IAS, and their associated costs-and-benefits. The need for strategic research to support this cannot be overemphasized. Research may include compiling a complete inventory of all alien species, including noninvasive ones, determining the impacts to date on ecosystems, and assessing the financial resources needed as against the cost of inaction. This will require new levels of investment in research. Partnerships and collaboration are essential for effective research. For example, the private sector could play a role in supporting research and development. Regional cooperation may help lower research costs.

The NEPAD-EAP will need to be complemented by national and sub-regional interventions. National strategies would need to identify the goals and objectives of an alien species plan. Such strategies will need to draw on existing knowledge and establishment management approaches. The shift that has taken place from species preservation to ecosystem integrity may form the basis of these responses.

Legal and institutional frameworks at national, subregional and regional levels will need to be refined to establish complementarity between different sectors. While the region has taken significant steps to address the problem by adopting the ACCNNR, its successful implementation will be long-term since out of the 33 countries that have signed it, only four had ratified it by March 2006 (AU 2003).

Legislation will need to create effective frameworks that are consistent with international obligations. These could benefit from the use of established legal approaches and principles, such as precaution, cost-recovery measures, rights of public participation, and rights of access to information. Other important management and decision-making tools that could be incorporated in national, sub-regional and regional frameworks include risk analysis and assessment systems, environmental impact assessment and cost-benefit analysis.

Partnerships, with a cross-section of actors at multiple scales, are an important aspect of developing appropriate responses. The inclusion of different stakeholders, from communities, NGOs, research organizations, the private sector and government, is important for developing appropriate policy as well as identifying effective interventions. Information, and its communication, is critical to bringing diverse sectors on board as effective partners. Environmental education initiatives should also highlight the problems of IAS and how they influence environmental change, which among other impacts, exacerbate human vulnerability.

The spread of IAS is directly linked to trade and human mobility. Reconciling these, and developing mechanisms that deal effectively with this challenge, is undoubtedly a priority area for policy and response.