African aquaculture production has gradually increased over the years, but progress is still slow. Given large variations between African countries with regard to the availability of water, the macro-economic context, access to capture fisheries resources and other factors, the performance of African countries in aquaculture cannot be considered only by absolute production levels or contribution to GDP. Additional indicators must be considered that also take into account the role of aquaculture as a source of food supply as well as other macro economic variables, such as population size and natural resource endowment. To this end, relevant data were collected for 54 African countries covering a range of indicators, drawing on existing data collections of the World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
The need for development of the sector and its potentials are identified by assessing African countries’ performance with regard to the role of aquaculture as a source of food supply, absolute and per capita production volumes and values (including changes over time), and the economic importance of the sector. The contribution of aquaculture to national fish supply is highest in Egypt. Lesotho features second in this indicator, but much of the production is targeted at the export market as confirmed by the low level of per capita fish supply. The greatest gap between per capita fish supply and average African fish supply was recorded for Ethiopia (followed by Guinea-Bissau and Sudan).
Egypt also leads African aquaculture in terms of absolute production volumes and value (followed by Nigeria). In 2018, Egypt’s production was more than twice the total production of all the remaining African countries put together. In terms of production growth rates over the past decade, however, other countries stand out, including Rwanda, Burundi, Lesotho and Benin, albeit starting from a low base. Lesotho, South Africa and Mauritius lead in the value of production per tonne due to the cultivation of a number of high-value species for export. In terms of the economic importance of the aquaculture sector, its contribution to GDP is highest in Egypt, followed somewhat surprisingly by Lesotho, a country in which there was no aquaculture a mere two decades ago and where today the sector is a significant earner of foreign currency. Egypt also leads with regard to output relative to available renewable water resources (followed by Uganda).
The study outlines a number of policy and investment priorities to support the growth of a sustainable, climate-resilient and equitable aquaculture sector in Africa as an integral part of food systems. Particular attention should be paid to engaging and building the capacities of small-scale actors in this sector to contribute to local food security, employment and income generation.
Published as ZEF Working Paper 211.