THE 2014 Africa Progress Report launched in Dar es Salaam has highlighted that the African continent is losing billions to illegal and shadowy practices in fishing.
At an engagement with local leaders at the Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH), some members of the Africa Progress Panel said the phenomenon of 'Ocean-grabbing' was threatening the lives of tens of thousands of fishermen.
The Deputy Executive Director of the Africa Progress Panel (APP), Mr Max Jarrett, noted that tens of thousands of artisanal fishermen in Africa now feel their livelihood is under threat.
He said the waters of the Atlantic Ocean around West Africa are one of the world's richest fishing grounds, income is declining. "This is due to the rise of illegal and unregulated fishing by commercial fleets from other countries," he pointed out.
He said there are currently 12 million small-scale fishermen across the world who derive vital income from fisheries. The report published today further highlights the rise of 'ocean-grabbing'.
COSTECH Director General, Dr Hassan Mshinda said it was important to focus on technologies that build inclusive growth. He highlighted some technologies the commission supports in agriculture.
The term 'ocean-grabbing' -- in the shape of shady access agreements, unreported catch, incursions into protected waters, and the diversion of resources away from local populations -- can be as serious a threat as 'land-grabbing'.
Research estimates that 'ocean-grabbing' across the world costs between 10 billion US dollars and 23.5 billion US dollars per year, representing between 11 to 12 million tons of fish.
Developing countries are thought to be most at risk from illegal fishing, with total estimated catches in West Africa being 40 per cent higher than reported catches.
The Africa Progress Report 2014, dubbed 'Grain, Fish, Money: Financing Africa's Green and Blue Revolutions', calls on Africa's political leaders to take concrete measures now to reduce inequality by investing in agriculture.
It also demands international action to end what it describes as the plunder of Africa's timber and fisheries. The report calls for a 'uniquely African green revolution' that adapts the lessons provided by Asia to African conditions.
Africa currently imports 35 billion US dollars worth of food because local agriculture is dogged by low productivity, chronic underinvestment, and regional protectionism.
The report said while critical of African governments, the Africa Progress Report 2014 also challenges the international community to support the region's development efforts.
It said beyond the financial cost this plunder destroys fishing communities who lose critical opportunities to fish, process and trade. The report observed that another 17 billion US dollars was lost through illicit logging activities.
Mr Kofi Annan is the chairman of the 10-member Africa Progress Panel which advocates at the highest levels for equitable and sustainable development in Africa. The Panel releases its flagship publication, the Africa Progress Report, every year in May.