Sustainable Aquaculture: New Frontiers for Economic Growth - Spotlight on Africa

Published on 11th July 2017

Demand for fish continues to expand at the global and continental levels, driven by factors such as increasing populations, growing recognition of the health benefits of fish, the emergence of a growing middle class, and the increasing availability of aquaculture products.

The importance of the fisheries and aquaculture sectors in Africa cannot be over-emphasised. Based on a joint NEPAD/FAO study published in 2014, the value added by the African fisheries and aquaculture sector in 2011 is estimated to be 24 billion dollars which accounts for 1.26% of total GDP of Africa. Detailed analysis of the subsectors highlights the relevance of marine artisanal fisheries with a contribution of 0.43%, followed by inland fisheries with 0.33%. The marine industrial fisheries contributes 0.36%. Aquaculture is still developing and it is contributing a mere 0.15% to the GDP, which amounts to 3 billion dollars US. These numbers are evidence of the benefits that are captured and could be sustained from our fisheries and aquaculture sectors with the appropriate policies in place.

Unfortunately, these benefits are at risk as the availability of fish from natural sources such as oceans, lakes, rivers and floodplains, are reaching their limits or are over-exploited. Expanding international demand for fish is driving catches beyond sustainable levels. This is further straining the already weak capacity of African institutions to manage their fisheries resources, resulting in massive illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

The major impact of this is the reduction in the quantity and quality of fish available for Africans to eat and a loss of potential export revenues. Consequently, Africa has the lowest per capita consumption of fish globally, estimated at 9 kg/capita/year, about less than half of the world average of 21 kg. This per capita consumption is projected to decline further as illegal fishing is likely to increase unless urgent actions are taken to ensure sustained production and governance of fisheries. In other words, Africa needs to implement policies and strategies which will enable the sector to contribute more efficiently to economic growth and poverty reduction.

to focus on Africa. Fish is the main animal protein source for more than 30% of the African population and employs over 12 million people, 7.5% of whom are in the aquaculture sector. It is therefore, high time for our global aquaculture community

Indeed, aquaculture faces serious problems at all levels in the majority of our respective countries. The infrastructure required for the development of aquaculture is insufficient, the political and institutional environment require improvements, the standards of safety and quality of products are not yet generalized, budgets allocated to the development of this sector are still weak and access to markets is still a challenge. It should be added that most individuals engaged in aquaculture activities remain poor and marginalized, with few rights to the resources from which they earn their income and few alternative livelihood options. The resources devoted to fisheries and aquaculture management, fisheries science and its application by the AU Member States are still very limited.

Critical feature of the PFRS is that it sets a new ambition and compels us to make a leap….This means we have no option but to REFORM our fisheries and aquaculture sectors

The continent presents enormous opportunities for fisheries and aquaculture development.

First: Many countries have expressed a political will to engage in fisheries reforms and to develop sustainable aquaculture. In this regard, the African Union has established a number of instruments to support the management of fisheries and aquaculture. These include the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), the NEPAD Action Plan for Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, and the Conference of African Ministers Responsible for Fisheries and Aquaculture (CAMFA).

Second: In Africa, structural changes are taking place in the food sector as a result of rising incomes and the growth of a middle class, changes in demographic structures, the increase of new lifestyles, globalization, and the liberalization of the fish trade and the emergence of new markets.

Finally: There is great potential in the inland fishery and aquaculture sector to increase fish production and utilization, thereby creating opportunities for job creation through aquaculture activities, product processing, use and transfer of technology and dissemination of good practices.

Recall that, it was within CAADP that the Heads of State and Government endorsed the NEPAD Action Plan for Fisheries and Aquaculture Development in Africa during the AU/NEPAD Fish for All Summit in Abuja, Nigeria in August 2005. In doing so, they called for increased investments in critical areas of inland fisheries, coastal and marine fisheries, and aquaculture. Furthermore, the African Heads of State and Government agreed to promote and protect fisheries as a strategic commodity alongside rice and maize during the AU/NEPAD Food Security Summit in December 2006; and committed themselves to attaining continental self-reliance on fish.  The NEPAD Agency therefore, ushered in the dawn of a new Blue Revolution in Africa by placing fisheries and aquaculture at the top of the development agenda. It is reassuring that in 2014, after eleven-years, the African Heads of State and Government, adopted the Pan-African Fisheries Policy Framework and Reform Strategy for Fisheries and Aquaculture, in Malabo-Equatorial Guinea.

One of the objectives of this instrument is to relaunch market-based sustainable aquaculture at the continental level through a variety of strategies and, where appropriate, to support interventionist approaches in aquaculture through the development of sound strategy and implementation plans. We are currently working on creating an enabling environment for aquaculture development by integrating aquaculture strategies and plans into national development plans, such as those supported through CAADP. We are also supporting the creation of a Centre of Excellence for fisheries and aquaculture in Africa that will promote good practices and provide the necessary training of actors to enable the development of this activity at the continental level.

Challenges still remain. The African Union goals with regards to fisheries can only be achieved if NEPAD Agency is able to provide high quality technical and relevant advice to our member states to enable them to undertake effective policy and governance reforms. Furthermore, existing fisheries initiatives at regional and national levels are largely fragmented and disjointed. Therefore, we need to engage the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and national member states to assist them to translate the Pan African Policy Framework and Reform Strategy into more coherent Regional and National Development Strategies, which can respond effectively to regional and national needs.

I am delighted to note that the work on fisheries that is fostered by NEPAD’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Program is consistent with the theory of change of the reform mechanism endorsed in June 2014 by the Head of States and Government. This is also in line with the spirit of NEPAD Agency as it will enable the continent to draw our own lessons from our failures and achievements, and for us as Africans, to take responsibility for replicating our success stories; to map out a path for sustainable governance of our fisheries and aquaculture; as well as guide our development partners to work with us on critical investment areas.

It is however, important for us to admit that our work has to be done in partnership, and that successful partnerships do not come easily. Unless we provide incentives for countries and regions of Africa to work together to address unsustainable fishing, it will remain a challenge for us to deliver on the goals of the NEPAD Action Plan or the African Policy Framework and Reform Strategy. On our part, NEPAD Agency will ensure that we provide the political capital necessary for countries to create the requisite environment for policy and governance reforms. We convened the first high level committee or Task Force of Ministers of Fisheries and Aquaculture (CAMFA) in Banjul, The Gambia in 2010, which enabled us to engage at the highest level of policy-making process. CAMFA is now an organ of the Africa Union. It is therefore, gratifying to know that a fishery programme that was initiated under NEPAD Agency leadership with support of AU-IBAR, has facilitated the formation of the Policy Think Tank at the continental level that is enabling the environment for our meeting today. This initiative will complement NEPAD Agency’s on-going transformation that has created a catalytic environment that will deepen the dialogue around Africa’s development.

Africa needs to be "more innovative, more productive and more competitive" to succeed in its "emergence". That is why we have initiated reforms at the level of the African Union to improve its functioning and to promote its evolution. Africa advances when it is united and speaks with one voice. Thus, each of the major challenges it encounters, conflicts, immigration, and trade, have been entrusted to one of our heads of state. In the same vein, we are planning to secure, in a short term, by our own means, the financing of the majority of our activities.

In your discussions this week, I urge you to consider practical and implementable options to address issues of food security. I urge you to also consider the importance of the fight against poverty so that we can support our populations depending on fishing and aquaculture, to access the resource by enhancing it. In this regard, I am pleased that the Blue Economy, as a driving force for the development of our continent, is included in the African Union project entitled "Agenda 2063, the Africa we want" adopted on 31 January 2015.

In order to accelerate the development of aquaculture at the continental level, the following four messages should be emphasized:

Message 1: We must strengthen the basic knowledge, data collection, analysis and dissemination of information to accelerate growth and transformation of the sector. In this regard, the NEPAD agency welcomes the launch tomorrow of the African Chapter of the World Aquaculture Society and we will look forward as to how the African Union can harness the expertise of the chapter to foster development in the continent;

Message 2: We must realise opportunities for market development in fish trade by promoting an enabling environment for investment in both large as well as small and medium-sized aquaculture enterprises; taking into consideration the issues of youth and gender for greater involvement of these actors in the aquaculture sector;

Message 3: We must continue sensitizing public authorities on the contribution of fish and aquaculture to issues of food and nutrition security to further elevate fisheries in the continental agenda; and 

Message 4: We must continue to promote the alignment of national and regional policies with the Policy Framework and Reform Strategy for fisheries and aquaculture in Africa. In this regard, I invite our technical and financial partners present today, to align their interventions in Africa with the implementation of the Policy Framework and Reform Strategy for fisheries and aquaculture in Africa and to support its implementation.

Distinguished delegates, at this point, let me now, in a very special and humble way, convey the sincere thanks of the NEPAD Agency, to the Government and the people of South Africa for hosting this important event. It is on this note that I wish to reconfirm NEPAD Agency’s commitment to collaborate with all our development partners towards the successful implementation of our fisheries and aquaculture programme.

By Dr Ibrahim Assane Mayaki

Chief Executive Officer, NEPAD Agency

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