On January 26, 2023, Suez University in Egypt hosted the launch of the Network of Centres of Excellence in Fisheries and Aquaculture, a new network for technical experts with the goal of improving the Fisheries and Aquaculture Programmes and Activities for AU-IBAR. This was followed by an information sharing session on January 27, 2023, in Cairo. The purpose of this two-day gathering was to:
• Formalize the launch of the Centres of Excellence to enhance awareness, outreach and visibility.
• Establish and Operationalize a Platform for the African Union Centres of Excellence in Fisheries and Aquaculture.
• Develop mechanisms for establishing linkages between the AFRM Advisory Council and the AU-COEs Platform.
• Seek opportunity to integrate the COEs in the FAO Global Sustainable Aquaculture Advancement Partnership.
Dr. Nick Nwankpa, Acting Director of AU-IBAR, spoke at the launch of the Network on behalf of H.E. Amb. Josefa Correia Sacko, Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy, and Sustainable Environment, noting that the Network would bring together CoE to share and learn from each other. For his part, the Acting Director of AU-IBAR remarked that "the formation of the AU-Centers of Excellence is a tremendous milestone in transforming and encouraging sustainable development of fisheries, aquaculture, and blue economy in Africa aligned to Agenda 2063." Therefore, Africa's fisheries and aquaculture resources will be better managed thanks to the COE.
On behalf of Egypt's Minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation, the gathering was officially launched by Professor Salah Aly, Chair of Egypt's Lakes and Fish Resources Protection and Development Agency. The biggest problem he listed was poverty and food insecurity in Africa. For AU-MS countries, fisheries and aquaculture are significant contributors to national economies. He noted that w hen it comes to fisheries and aquaculture in Africa, the establishment of AU-Centres of Excellence will greatly benefit the continent by raising public awareness, offering technical guidance, providing leadership, and training its future professionals. He further highlighted that the COE will be extremely helpful in achieving the goals and visions of the African Union's Agenda 2063.
Attendees of the launch at Suez University also got to see the Fisheries and Aquaculture Department and Suez University Centre of Excellence, the latter of which was officially named the Network's interim Chair. See pictures below:
Dr. Mohamed Seisay, Senior Fisheries Management Expert at AU-IBAR, provided a summary on the 27th of January, 2023, of the AU-Centers of Excellence's goals, history, and functions, as well as the strategy for enhancing AU-IBAR's fisheries and aquaculture programmes and activities, and the continental and regional strategy for capitalising on Centers of Excellence. Specifically, he mentioned that the network would use the Centers of Excellence's expertise to aid in carrying out crucial Continental and Regional Strategies like the PFRS.
At the technical session of the meeting, representatives from the AU-Centers of Excellence gave brief presentations on their respective institutions' profiles. Each COE gave a presentation detailing its institution as follows:
a) Suez University was presented by Prof. Osama Kaddour, the Dean Faculty of Fishery Resources.
b) Central Laboratory for Aquaculture Research (CLAR) was presented by Prof. Refaat El Gamal.
c) University of Ibadan (UI) in Nigeria was represented by Prof. Adetola Jenyo-Oni.
d) National Fisheries Resources Research Institute (Uganda) was presented by the Director, Dr. Winnie Nkalubo.
e) Rhodes University was presented by Prof. Clifford Jones and Prof. Peter Britz.
f) Académie Régionale des Sciences et Techniques de la Mer (ARSTM) was presented Yaho Federick Olivier Combes.
g) Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, University of Cape Coast (DFAS -UCC) was presented by Dr.Noble Asare, UCC.
h) Africa Centre of Excellence in Coastal Resilience, ACECOR was presented by Prof. Denis Aheto.
i) LAgence Gabonaised dEtudes et dObservation spatiale (AGEOS) was presented by Prof. Aboubakar Mambimba.
j) Institut des Arts et metiers nautique de limbe was presented by Dr. Etah Collins Ayuk of LINAFI.
Dr. Austin Stankus, who works for the FAO, also gave a presentation. The topic of his talk was "Integrating the COEs in FAO Global Sustainable Aquaculture Advancement Partnership" (GSAAP).
A technical session on the operationalization of the AU CoE Network included three presentations from: (i) Prof. Andrew Baio, who gave a presentation on the experience of Korean University as a COE in fisheries and Aquaculture: Mechanism of enhancing collaboration and networking among the COEs and other institutions. (ii) Irene Ohaga, who shared some insights on how to establish rules of procedure including foundation members, and (iii) Prof. Osama Kaddour, of the Suez University, who led members in the Declaration and Formalization of the AU-COEs Network.
Three different speakers contributed to a technical discussion on the implementation of the AU CoE Network: (i) Professor Andrew Baio, who spoke on Korean University's work as a Center of Excellence (COE) in fisheries and aquaculture and discussed ways to improve cooperation and networking between COEs and other academic institutions, (ii) Prof. Osama Kaddour of Suez University led participants in the Declaration and Formalization of the AU-COEs Network, and (ii) Irene Ohaga, AU-IBAR provided some ideas on how to construct rules of procedures including formalisation of the AU-CoE Network.
The meeting applauded the efforts of the training, research, and development centres that are developing the necessary ability, knowledge, and skills in creative solutions to advance Africa's sustainable fisheries, aquaculture, and blue economy. Regional and international partners were applauded for their efforts to increase funding and expertise for AU-IBAR and COE.
As the meeting came to a close, attendees discussed potential next steps for making the Network fully functional. Among these is the creation of a structure for the COE's norms of procedure and membership criteria. The next COE meeting will be held at University of Ibadan, as was unanimously agreed upon at the meeting. A date that will be decided upon digitally.