The livestock sector is an important part of the economies of the African countries, accounting for about 25% of agricultural GDP on average. It has unrivalled prospects for growth because it has the fastest growing market which is driven by urban and higher income consumers within Africa and globally. It supports and sustains the livelihoods of over 300 million people in Africa. These people fully or partially depend on livestock for income and/or subsistence. Livestock can provide a steady stream of food and revenue, and are often the only means of asset accumulation and risk diversification. Moreover, it creates employment opportunities in the agriculture and industry sectors. In addition to employment, livestock offer other livelihoods services such as social capital, which is an important social function essential in establishing and maintaining the social networks through which risk is managed. In many agricultural systems, livestock are particularly important to women who engage in selling livestock products.
Despite its crucial role in Africa's economy and livelihoods services, the livestock sector has, however, remained undeveloped because of a number of constraints, the main of which is the huge burden of animal diseases. In order to alleviate this problem, national veterinary services in Africa should play a prominent role in preventing and controlling emerging and re-emerging diseases. Their role should even go beyond the enhancement of animal production by reducing losses caused by animal diseases. They should also aim at safeguarding public health by tracking animal diseases transmissible to humans and protecting consumers from food-related health risks, and improving access to markets. Member States (MSs) however, cannot fulfil all these without adequate policies and legislations which are responding to the establishment of efficient and affordable veterinary services.