Charting a New Path to Sustainable Aquaculture in Africa

  • December 4, 2018
  • Posted by: bkibiti

October 18, 2018 As the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 73) took place in New York, a group of experts convened in Nairobi from September 24th to 26th 2018 for a consultation meeting on Sustainable Inland and Marine Aquaculture in Africa. The consultation which drew experts from across Africa (academia, development and research organization, government institutes) was convened  by a consortium of organizations led by Conservation International (CI) and the African Development Bank (AfDB).

The goal of the consultation forum was to;

  1. Understand the state of play of both in land and marine aquaculture in Africa (specifically gaps and opportunities).
  2. Co-design an action plan to address the gaps and opportunities for sustainable aquaculture in Africa.

Why should we care about sustainable aquaculture in Africa?

According to UN Population Division data, Africa’s population continues to grow at unprecedented rates, with the population expected at over 1.6 billion by 2030. There will be continued need to feed the growing population while ensuring employment and investment opportunities for the burgeoning youthful population. Evidence shows that in developing countries the amount of protein consumed is insufficient, this will further be complicated by the growing population. While livestock production in developing countries has marginally increased on average, persistent undernutrition, including low intake of good quality protein, remains a major threat to livelihoods[1].  There is need to develop new alternatives to livestock as a source of protein (livestock has been linked to greenhouse gas emission through enteric fermentation process[2]). Aquaculture is seen as an environmentally sustainable way to meet global demand for fisheries products hence meet protein requirements. Sub-Saharan Africa’s vast inland waters and coastlines present a largely untapped opportunity to contribute to the nutrition and socio-economic development needs of the region. Experts agreed that the sector is growing but is still highly dependent on capture fisheries. Currently Africa’s capture fisheries contribute about 10.2 percent of global fish production while aquaculture contributes 2.6 percent. It is expected that by 2027 capture fisheries will grow to 11 per cent of global production with aquaculture contributing 2.8 per cent[3].  

Africa’s population Source:

One driver for this growth is the growing population and demand for protein which has created new markets for aquaculture. As noted above Africa’s population is expected to hit 1.6 billion by 2030. This will increase pressure on Africa’s resources to provide food, which is likely to witness an increased demand for animal-based protein. This requires more sustainable production of existing sources of protein as well as alternative sources for direct human consumption such fish protein.

Secondly, there is increasing private sector investments and new approaches. One such example is Victory Farms who shared their experiences at the meeting. Victoria Farms operates in Lake Victoria. They target low income and underserved high population urban dwellings in Nairobi. The farm covers the entire value chain from hatching to customers.  In many countries there is a growing government and political will towards inland and marine aquaculture development for example Kenya has Fisheries Management and Development Act 2016 that provides for conservation, management and development of fisheries and other aquatic resources to enhance the livelihood of communities that depend on fishing.


Despite the opportunities presented, there are still several challenges that were identified as curtailing the sustainable development of inland and marine aquaculture in Africa. The challenges include;

  1. Capacity – there is need to development human resource specifically trained to ensure sustainable interventions within the aquaculture sector.
  2. Spatial mapping – there is no comprehensive understanding of natural capital carrying capacity to guide investment. This has potential of leading to unplanned and unstainable investments in aquaculture sector. There is need for data on aquaculture.
  3. Post-harvest handling – lack of cold chain facilities was identified as a major challenge in the post-harvest preservation. Since aquaculture products are highly perishable many small-scale investors incur huge losses due to lack of these facilities.
  4. Quality, availability and affordability of Seed and feed – there is need to invest in quality seed and feed to ensure high productivity in aquaculture.
  5. Value addition- most aquaculture products are sold raw which leads to low returns for investors.
  6. Infrastructure – most high potential aquaculture zones have very poor infrastructure which discourages investment due to high costs and post-harvest losses. 
  7. Pollution – upstream activities impact on aquaculture. These include mercury pollution and siltation of water sources.
  8. Unplanned investments – due to lack of data there is increasing unplanned aquaculture development in Africa with potential of becoming unstainable in the long run.

Next steps

After three days of deliberations the team of experts developed an action plan based on three areas:

  1. Resource and spatial mapping – for the aquaculture to develop sustainably there is need map natural capital that informs decisions for environmentally, socially and economically sustainable aquaculture development. This intervention will help in understanding of the carrying capacity of natural capital hence promote policy interventions that promote sustainable aquatic resources development.
  2. Investment in seed and feed – the team underscored the need to focus on developing a programme that will focus on ensuring availability of high-quality seed and feed to ensure high yield.
  3. Aquaculture entrepreneurship – developing strong aquaculture entrepreneurship is a very critical aspect of ensuring sustainability of the sector. This important as it will guide and ensure broader benefits because of the resource, spatial planning and improvement in feed and seed.

Financing sustainable aquaculture in Africa

Several sources of finance and investment were identified during the consultation. Some of the identified sources include governments, public donors, private donors, development finance institutions such World Bank and AfDB, impact investors and private sectors. The choice of the source of finance highly depends on the intervention therefore there is need to develop a sound business proposition before approaching potential financers. As the curtains fell on the expert consultation there was a sigh that there is renewed focus on sustainable aquaculture and high prospects in developing the sector in Africa.

For more information, please email Alice Ruhweza or Victor Esendi

[1] Dietary protein quality and malnutrition in Africa.  [accessed Oct 05, 2018].

[2] IPCC

[3] OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2018-2017

[4] Population Pyramid


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