Fisheries play a significant role in eliminating hunger, promoting health and reducing poverty in Africa. In addition, fisheries have provided employment to Africa’s coastal residents and important social safety net to the poor and vulnerable population. Fish continues to be one of the most-traded food commodities worldwide. It is especially important for developing countries, sometimes worth half the total value of their traded commodities.
Based on the latest available statistics, the value added by the fisheries sector in Africa is estimated at more than US$24 billion, which is 1.26 percent of the GDP of all African countries. African countries also received US$0.4 billion under fishing agreements with foreign nations fishing in their exclusive economic zones (EEZs). Considering that 25 percent of all marine catches around Africa are by non-African countries, the value added to national economies could be much higher if African fleets also accounted for this portion of catches and if countries had stronger negotiation capabilities so they can capture a larger portion of the resource rents. According to recent estimates, the fisheries sector as a whole (including aquaculture) employs 12.3 million people as full-time fishers or full-time and part-time processors, representing 2.1 percent of Africa’s population of between 15 and 64 years old. About 27.3 percent of the people engaged in the sector are women, especially in fish processing activities.
Despite these benefits, the fisheries sector faces enormous challenges paramount of which include the scourge of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, harmful fishing practices leading to wastage, poor governance frameworks characterized by lack of or weak collaborative framework, poor cooperation and coherence in management systems, lack of evidence-based decisions etc. The recent study by AU-IBAR estimates that the total IUU fishing catch in Africa, excluding discards, is estimated at 4.7 million tons and the socio-economic value of lost fishing opportunities due to IUU is estimated at least $10 billion. Also, open access nature of small-scale fisheries and overcapacity pose significant management challenges on the continent.
The Africa large marine ecosystems (LME): the Canary Current, the Guinea Current, Benguela current, the Somali and Aghulas Currents, Mediterranean seas (in the North) have been hardest hit from unsustainable practices exacerbated by climate change phenomena and environmental hazards. Thus the underperformance of the Africa’s fisheries is due to: (i) overfishing of most commercial fish stocks, resulting from insufficient capacity in the countries to govern and manage the use of the resources at sustainable levels and prevent illegal fishing; and (ii) the fact that in most countries the resources are largely taken in an offshore economy by foreign or industrial vessels that rarely land their fish catch in the region or participate in the local economy, such that African countries only capture a fraction of the value of the natural resources endowed to them.
The Policy Framework and Reform Strategy for fisheries and aquaculture in Africa (PFRS) was developed and endorsed by African Heads of States and Government to address some of the seemingly intractable challenges in the sector and is aimed at increasing the sustainable contribution of the sector to food security, livelihoods and wealth creation. The African Fisheries Reform Mechanism (AFRM), an AU-led mechanism, was established to promote coordination and coherence in the governance of the Africa’s fisheries and aquaculture sector. The Mechanism comprises of three main organs: the Advisory Council, the Think Tank Executive Committee and the CAMFA Secretariat (The Conference of African Ministers in charge of fisheries and aquaculture). The Thank Tank Process is technically supported by the AFRM Working Groups that comprised of proven experts in fisheries and aquaculture or related disciplines.
The Strategic Partnership for Fisheries Investment Fund project (SPFIF) Project
Between the years 2006 and 2011, the GEF and the World Bank funded SPFIF, which was implemented by AU_IBAR with support from FAO and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The SPFIF promoted the establishment of: i) a Sustainable Fisheries Investment Fund, aimed at leveraging additional financing from the GEF and other partners to support sustainable marine fisheries; ii) a Strategic Partnership of stakeholders, donors, regional organizations etc., led by the African Union to help exchange lessons learned and promote sustainable fisheries issues within the region. SPFIF facilitated the preparation of a broader investment in Africa in support of policy reform in the fisheries sector and laid the groundwork for the establishment of AFRM.
The Regional Partnership for African Fisheries Policy Reform (RAFIP) Project
While GEF/World Bank, EU and other partners have made substantial investments in the fisheries of the SSA region, and the AU-IBAR has demonstrated strong interest in fisheries reforms, much remains to be done to build regional partnerships, improve countries access to new knowledge and best practices, and enhance the visibility of Africa’s fisheries.
The Regional Partnership for African Fisheries Policy Reform (RAFIP) has been designed as follow-up phase medium sized project to the GEF/World Bank Strategic Partnership project (Regional Activities of the Strategic Partnership for a Sustainable Fisheries Investment Fund in the Large Marine Ecosystems of Sub-Saharan Africa), which was implemented by the AU between 2009 and 2011.
The RAFIP Project total cost is USD 2,000,000 and was initially proposed to run from 2015 to 2018 and funded by the GEF/World Bank within the broader framework of the parent programme ‘Strategic Partnership for Sustainable Fisheries Management in the Large Marine Ecosystems in Africa’