The EU would be well advised to invest in aquaculture and fisheries in Africa
By CGIAR WorldFish Managing Director Essam Yassin Mohammed and CGIAR System Board Chair Lindiwe Majele Sibanda
Investing in aquaculture and fisheries in Africa is not only opening a new frontier with enormous potential, but also meeting the pressing challenges of today, write Essam Yassin Mohammed and Lindiwe Majele Sibanda.
With a maritime border three times larger than its landmass, the African continent is prime territory for fisheries and aquaculture and all the benefits this brings for nutrition, livelihoods and economic growth.
Yet the vast majority of fish and seafood produced in Africa comes from Egypt, with all other countries accounting for only 6.6% of global production.
Nigeria imports nearly half of its fish supply to meet growing demand, despite being Africa’s second largest aquaculture market.
Asia, in comparison, produces almost half of the world’s production, without even counting China, the leading producing country.
After the African Union Trade Commissioner made it clear at the G7 summit that the continent will no longer accept a one-way relationship with the world’s largest economies, supporting the development of African aquaculture is an opportunity for the EU and its partners to help realize the untapped potential for shared prosperity.
Aquatic food sector in Africa remains unused
An additional investment of around €11.1 billion in the aquaculture sector in Africa would generate estimated revenues of €19 billion and jobs for 58 million people in 2050.
Sustainably increasing the supply of aquatic foods could also make them affordable enough to prevent some 166 million micronutrient deficiencies globally by 2030.
Malnutrition is particularly severe in sub-Saharan Africa, with almost a quarter of its population undernourished.
The need is made even more critical by the disproportionate impact of climate change facing Africa, adding pressure to all aspects of its food production.
Over the weekend, the EU joined other G7 economies in committing to the Hiroshima Declaration of Action for Resilient Global Food Security, as well as pledging to provide €560 billion. euros for infrastructure projects in developing countries.
Developing and inspiring an underutilized sector in Africa, such as aquaculture, provides an opportunity to leverage both.
Lessons could be learned from Asia
The EU has already recognized the benefits of investing in sustainable fisheries and aquaculture for Africa with its €40 million FISH4ACP initiative.
But the path to more equitable economic development, as well as nutritionally diverse and resilient food systems, is made considerably more achievable through lessons from the Asian aquaculture sector.
Efforts to increase South-South cooperation and innovation are already underway, with the recently launched UK-backed Asia-Africa BlueTech Superhighway program aimed at strengthening aquatic food systems in Africa and Asia.
But there are many other opportunities for the EU to support greater collaboration in the Global South, especially under Japan’s G7 Presidency.
For example, the tools and solutions that have driven the growth of aquaculture and fisheries in Asia can also benefit Africa, such as improved breeds of common species including Nile tilapia, carp and catfish.
Although originally from Africa, genetically improved varieties of tilapia that grow up to 85% faster and require fewer resources have been developed by WorldFish scientists with EU funding – a breakthrough that is starting now close the loop for the benefit of African producers.
Having been introduced and cultivated in the Philippines, Bangladesh, China, Thailand and Vietnam, these varieties can be adopted by African growers with confidence in benefits ranging from increased production to 36% less environmental impact. % compared to conventional breeds.
Gender-transformative approaches could also be helpful
The development and large-scale adoption of integrated and sustainable production systems, such as rice-fish systems, is another possibility for South-South benefit accumulation.
Both products play a key role in the diets, food sectors and economies of Africans and Asians, and practices proven in one region can be adapted to the other. Such an approach can streamline innovation and reduce the risk of failure.
Finally, facilitating greater knowledge exchange between Asia and Africa can improve the capabilities of both, with training and education programs, technical assistance, as well as mentoring and coaching, all means of improve the skills of local players in the sector.
In particular, gender-transformative approaches can help close the gender gap in food systems.
Lessons learned from Africa can help Asia increase women’s empowerment in the sector, which will lead to increased productivity, efficiency and innovation.
WorldFish has already piloted such approaches in Bangladesh and Zambia, which have increased women’s participation in fishing from 5% to 75%.
Africa could become another big fish with help from Brussels
Investing in aquaculture and fisheries in Africa is not only about opening up a new frontier with enormous potential, but it is also about meeting the pressing challenge of climate change, creating shared prosperity and tackling malnutrition to millions of people.
Asia has much to share from its own experience of solving similar problems with similar conditions and resources.
With the support of the EU and the rest of the international community, as well as greater South-South collaboration, Africa can also become another big fish in a big pond.
Essam Yassin Mohammed is the Managing Director of WorldFish and Lindiwe Majele Sibanda is the Chair of the Board of CGIAR, a global partnership that brings together international organizations engaged in food security research.
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