A new pan-African project has been launched to strengthen the continent’s great potential for increased trade in fish. Despite a massive endowment with plentiful fish resources in oceans, rivers, lakes, floodplains and fish farms, Africa accounts for just 4.9 percent of global fish trade. More efficient trade could significantly improve income and nutrition for millions of Africans, particularly those 12.3 million that are directly employed in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors.
Fish accounts for just 22 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s protein intake but per-capita fish consumption has stagnated and is now under half the global average. The continent produces 9.9 million tonnes of fish a year and yet its share of global trade in this valuable commodity is just 4.9 percent. In 2011, Africa became a net importer of fish.
Of the 9.9 million tonnes of fish produced in 2010, one third came from inland fisheries and 1.28 million tonnes came from aquaculture. In 2011 the value of pan-African fish trade was $24bn, equivalent to 1.25 percent gross domestic product of all African countries.
The 12.3 million employed by the sector represents only 2 percent of Africa’s population between 15 and 64 years old, of whom 27 percent are women. The cost of illegal and unregulated fishing in Africa is estimated to be over $1bn a year, while trade is constrained by inadequate market and trade infrastructure and poor policy implementation. High transport costs, complex and unaligned trade rules and poor market information also prevent Africa from optimising the social and economic benefits available.
‘FishTrade for a Better Future’, a European Commission funded project implemented by WorldFish, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad) and the African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) aim to strengthen value chains and, with a focus on sustainability, give better access to intra-regional markets and subsequently improve food and nutritional security and income in sub-Saharan Africa.
‘Africa has the potential to develop its fisheries and aquaculture to play a much greater role in promoting food security, providing livelihoods and supporting economic growth,’ says Stephen J Hall, director-general of WorldFish. ‘Per capita consumption has fallen, despite Africa’s great abundance of aquatic resources. FishTrade will create the foundations for a more solid, productive and sustainable building-up of this great, continent-wide resource.’
Hamady Diop, Nepad’s programme manager fisheries and aquaculture, adds that, ‘recent years have seen increased growth in aquaculture. FishTrade will provide the opportunity to learn from past successes and failures and governments will be given the right information to be able to create the incentives and infrastructure that investors need to meet local demand and penetrate higher value-added export markets.’
FishTrade will work in four ‘corridors’ to generate information on the structure, products and value of intra-regional fish trade and its contribution to food security in sub-Saharan Africa. Recommendations will be prepared on policies, fish certification guidelines and quality and safety standards, as well as regulations. A second stage will focus on strengthening the trade capacities of private sector associations, in particular of women fish processors, women traders and all aquaculture producers, in order for them to make better use of expanding trade opportunities through competitive small- and medium-scale enterprises.
Steve Wathome, programme manager, agriculture and rural development delegation of the European Union to Kenya, is convinced that ‘the Fish Trade programme will significantly contribute towards the fisheries sector in Africa. Trade has been identified as one of the major challenges affecting growth of the fish sector in Africa, with challenges being notable with regard to intra-Africa trade and accessing global markets.’
Fish Trade for a Better Future will support adoption and implementation of appropriate policies, fish certification procedures, standards and regulations by key stakeholders in intra-regional trade. The programme will equip governments with the capacities needed to implement the African Union Policy Framework and Reform Strategy for Fisheries and Aquaculture in Africa. In addition, it has been designed to support the work of governments towards implementation of the Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods
Ahmed El Sawalhy director, AU-IBAR says, ‘trade plays a major role in the fishery industry as a creator of employment, food supplier, income generator, and contributor to economic growth and development in several African countries.’ Domestic and intra-regional trade of fish (both marine and inland waters) is important with great potential for enhancing regional integration and food and nutrition security. However many AU member states still face several constraints in improving their fish trade and marketing sector. ‘This project will enable alignment of policies at the continental level and open-up fish trade that we believe will have a strong effect on the alleviation of poverty in some of our poorest regions,’ he adds.