African Aquaculture: Challenges and Opportunities - event roundup and next steps

Posted on: 06.06.2022

In early April 2022, AgriFood Africa Connect brought together the aquaculture communities in Africa and the UK through our online “African Aquaculture: Challenges and opportunities” event. 241 people joined us to discuss the challenges facing the industry in Africa and how collaboration and knowledge transfer could turn the challenges into opportunities.

The status of aquaculture in Africa today

Colin Shelly from WorldFish gave an inspiring opening presentation. He explained the current status of the industry and how we need to focus on policy and investment in sustainable climate resilient and equitable aquaculture, as an integral part of food systems. He spoke about the importance of co-operatives as a mechanism for industry development alongside the need for a range of digital platforms, sensors, and the uptake of Internet of Things (IoT) technology.

Grant Stentiford from CEFAS pointed out that many African nations produce less than 5% of their seafood through aquaculture, being more reliant on capture fisheries and imports. He described the One Health Approach and explained that we need to engage a diverse range of expertise. This means engaging not only those working in aquaculture, and that we must be aware of the interactions between aquaculture and other food sectors.

 

Technology transfer might not be the best way for growth

During the panel session, chaired by Etienne Hinrichsen (AquaEco), there were interesting discussions around the transfer of technology from the UK into Africa and whether this was the best way to boost the development of aquaculture. Would it be better to focus on low hanging fruits such as aeration for ponds or integrated aquaculture? The consensus was that many of the technologies that were out of reach until recently for most Africans due to cost, are now becoming much more affordable. Grant StentiFord gave the example of molecular techniques which are now much less expensive and can be used to tackle disease during the pre-emergent phase rather than tackling the problems caused once the disease takes hold.

 

Investment is essential for the industry

Investment, or lack of it, was an issue that kept coming up during many of the presentations. Start-ups in Africa are in serious need of appropriate financing, venture capital funding or angel investment. The correct investment structure needs to be implemented to help new businesses to get off the ground. Tembwe Mutungu (First Wave Group) explained that 70-80% of the challenges they face are business related as opposed to aquaculture related. Investment opportunities for infrastructure and new market linkages could help to solve some of these problems for the industry.

 

New feed options could give the sector a boost

The availability of feed and its distribution is another area where collaboration could benefit the industry. The use of alternative proteins, such as black soldier fly, could benefit many producers and could provide a new revenue stream, local employment and a new source of feed. Another alternative protein currently being developed in the UK, both for human and animal consumption, is seaweed. Flower Msuya (Zanzibar Seaweed Cluster Initiative) explained how collaboration in the seaweed industry could help scale out recent technologies and expand the market.

 

Training will ensure a long lasting impact

The sharing of resources and training of African researchers and industry employees will play a vital role in the development of the industry. It is important that new technology is not just introduced to Africa without any follow up. We need to include the whole value chain in these developments and help with training and the stimulation of innovation within Africa too.

 

Innovation and collaboration can solve challenges

The biggest take home message from the event was that challenges to African aquaculture will not be solved without innovation and collaboration. Proscovia Alando (Samaky Hub) pointed out that the industry needs to stop working in silos if progress is to be made. A very important additional message came from Grant Stentiford who pointed out that given the current climate issues we are all facing, we need to design sustainability into the aquaculture sector rather than having to retrofit the industry further down the line.

 

The final take home message from Colin was one that if we all work together to collaborate and innovate within the industry then hopefully we can make it happen – ‘Aquaculture’s got a great future in Africa’!

If you are involved in aquaculture in the UK or Africa and would like support to fast-track your innovation, especially through collaboration, we can help.

Get in touch with our aquaculture expert Caroline Griffin to find out how we can support you.

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Caroline Griffin

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