African states urged to partner with private sector to enhance aquaculture

Kenya Fisheries Director Lucy Obungu with African Union Director Dr Huyam Salih (both at centre) pause for a photo with participants after the official opening of the 2nd General Assembly Congress of Aquaculture for Africa (ANAF) in Naivasha on Jan 15, 2023. [Courtesy]

African governments have been urged to seek more partnerships with the private sector to enhance aquaculture production.

African Union’s InterAfrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) Director Dr Huyam Salih on Monday said such partnerships will play a key role in feeding the continent while lifting communities from poverty.

Speaking during the ongoing 2nd General Assembly Congress of Aquaculture for Africa (ANAF) in Naivasha, Salih said with its vast water resources, including lakes, rivers and coastal areas, the African continent's capacity for aquaculture development has been identified as a promising solution to address food security, as well as help in poverty eradication.

Salih said the sector can contribute significantly to meeting the growing need for food by providing a sustainable and efficient means of producing fish, shrimp, and other aquatic species.

According to her, the controlled environment of aquaculture systems allows for year-round production, reducing the impact of seasonal variations on food availability.

She said a lot remains to be done, in a bid to address the existing bottlenecks.

“One of the main challenges is (lack of) financial capital and bringing of stakeholders together to collaborate and establish evolving investments to cover the requested aquaculture production,” she said.

Through ANAF, however, she said the aquaculture production is set to be enhanced, in a bid to bridge the existing fish production gaps in the continent.

ANAF was officially endorsed by African Ministers at a recent meeting in Addis Ababa as African Union-recognised Network to support aquaculture development in Africa with its Secretariat based at AU-IBAR.

Salih said the original concept for ANAF is to serve as a stand-alone continental institution providing technical backing and facilitation to the African aquaculture “subsector and continue to support aquaculture development in the continent, as an autonomous and self-reliant intergovernmental organization.”

To realise the objectives of ANAF, she challenged the private sector to collaborate more with governments, in a bid to develop the sector.

For small-scale aquaculture farmers to thrive, she said governments should ensure there is seamless information sharing and facilitate the creation of cooperatives, for them to access financing from financial institutions.

Senior Fisheries and Aquaculture Officer, FAO Regional Office for Africa Ndiaga Gueye said ANAF objectives include efforts to maximize the utilisation of scarce resources for aquaculture development in Africa, fostering sustainable growth to combat poverty, ensure food security, provide employment, and promote rural development.

He pointed out that the objectives align seamlessly with FAO's mission of achieving, “more efficient, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable agrifood systems for better production, better nutrition, better environment, and better life leaving no one behind.”

Gueye said, “Since the 2005 Fish for All Summit, ANAF has grown into a vital force driving sustainable aquaculture development in Africa.”

While aquaculture holds great promise for promoting food security and poverty eradication in Africa, the stakeholders have said concerted efforts are needed to overcome existing challenges.

Investments in technology, infrastructure, and education, coupled with sustainable practices and effective governance, they said can unlock the full potential of aquaculture, fostering economic development and improving the livelihoods of millions across the continent.

Only 600,000 people are directly employed in the sector, in a continent of more than a billion people, with Africa contributing a meager 6 percent in global fish production.

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