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EC funds pan-African fish trade initiative

Lack of infrastructure is a major concern for the fisheries sector across Africa, according to Torsten Böhler, managing director, Abacus Emerging Markets.

The European Commission has funded the creation of a new pan-Africa project to strengthen the continent’s fish trade, FishTrade for a Better Future.

The continent accounts for just 4.9 percent of the world’s fish trade despite its ample fish resources om oceans, rivers, lakes, floodplains and fish farms. Some 12.3 million Africans are directly employed in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors.

WorldFish, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and the African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources will implement the project to help strengthen value chains and give fish producers better access to intra-regional markets. The main aim of the project is to improve food and nutritional security and income in sub-Saharan Africa.

But some private sector players are not convinced the new alliance will make a huge impact.

“My initial take is that it is positive news,” said Torsten Böhler, managing director at Abacus Emerging Markets, the boutique investment bank working on aquaculture investments. “Will it necessarily be sufficient to make a real impact? I somewhat doubt it.”

“Clearly the African continent may have significant potential but an increase in trade intra-regional or beyond is dependent on infrastructure and processing capabilities,” he added. “I would assume that the vast majority of small scale family businesses and wild fisheries will not necessarily have the means to process fish or get involved in longer distancing trading activities in absence of appropriate processing and logistics.”

FishTrade will work to generate information on the structure, products and value of intra-regional fish trade and its contribution to food security in sub-Saharan Africa. Recommendations will be prepared on policies, fish certification guidelines and quality and safety standards, as well as regulations.

“A second stage will focus on strengthening the trade capacities of private sector associations, in particular of women fish processors, women traders and all aquaculture producers, in order for them to make better use of expanding trade opportunities through competitive small- and medium-scale enterprises,” reads the press release.

FishTrade will also support the adoption and implementation of appropriate policies, fish certification procedures, standards and regulations by key stakeholders in intra-regional trade.

The programme aims to give governments the capacities needed to implement the African Union Policy Framework and Reform Strategy for Fisheries and Aquaculture in Africa.