President's Column December 2018
Congratulations Africa and the world aquaculture community, 7 November 2018 marked the approval and ratification of the African Chapter of WAS! We are delighted about this great achievement and proud to be finally standing alongside other chapters of WAS from around the world. It would be prudent for me to begin this presidential column by evoking the journey we have been on and achievements made along the way to where we are today.
It took several years of deliberations but many of us will never forget the euphoria and commitment witnessed on the day the Chapter was launched at the WAS 2017 Conference in Cape Town, South Africa. Thereafter, and with guidance from the WAS Board and Executive Committee, we began the process of doing all the formalities to getting the Chapter established. A Steering Committee was established to lead the process, comprised of my good colleagues from South Africa (Dr. Khalid Salie — from University of Stellenbosch, Ms. Zukiswa Nkhereanye and Ms. Fatima Samodien — both from the government’s Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF). The team worked together with focal points and other relevant stakeholders from around Africa. I salute this team for their effective work and dedication.
The Steering Committee worked hard in drafting the Chapter’s concept note, bylaws and roadmap to establish the Chapter’s secretariat and to get volunteers for the Interim Board. The process of getting a petition to form a Chapter (a document signed by focal points from within Africa) was co-ordinated and concluded successfully. The signed petition was submitted to WAS Board in July 2018.
A Secretariat for the Chapter was established in June 2018. The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) agency pledged to house the Secretariat at their offices in Midrand, South Africa. Thanks to Dr. Bernice Mclean from NEPAD, who is attending to the necessary formalities to get this finalized. We are hoping the office will be set up early next year within NEPAD offices. This gesture of having an Africa Union body endorsing us from the onset is one of our greatest strengths.
The Interim Board was finalized in 2018, and consists of myself (from Egypt), John Walakira (from Uganda), Flower Msuya (from Tanzania) and Zukiswa Nkhereanye (from South Africa). I have been working with this team to lay the foundation to operationalize the Chapter and to strategize on the way forward.
The approval and ratification of the Chapter follows a process of a review of bylaws and voting by ballot, where WAS members residing in Africa are given the opportunity to vote online for or against the formation of the African Chapter. These two processes have concluded well and the results from the voting surpassing the two-thirds majority required. This was undoubtedly a true testimony that the WAS community in Africa need a chapter within their continent. November 7, 2018 therefore marked the end of the process for African Chapter formation. I wish to salute WAS members in Africa for saying “Yes we can!”
Now that the formation phase has ended, there is a lot of work ahead of us to get the Chapter going to serve the interests of our members in Africa. But first, I shall be working with my team in getting the Chapter on good footing. We have begun the process of drafting the Chapter’s Financial Plan and Budget and obviously we will also begin the process of mobilizing resources to effectively implement some of our planned activities.
In this regard, I am overly delighted with the financial pledges we have already received in terms of financial support from the following entities: the government of South Africa (through DAFF), which provided seed funding for the establishment of the Chapter and its Secretariat; NEPAD, and recently Aller Aqua, a large-scale feed company with operations in Africa, has agreed to be a Gold Sponsor for the Chapter for the next three years. Thank you Aller Aqua for being a pacesetter! And thanks to the WAS EXCOM for such a fruitful engagement with Aller Aqua. We are also looking forward to WAS start-up financial support soon, now that the Chapter is ratified. We hope that many support entities will come on board and begin working with us during 2019.
We have also begun drafting the Chapter’s Operational Plan, a guiding document that lists some of the key milestones and activities for 2019, serving our members in line to Chapter goals and objectives and as guided by standard operating procedures for a WAS Chapter.
A more permanent executive board needs to be elected to provide sound leadership and direction for the Chapter. As such we have begun the process to identify a slate of candidates to be on this Executive Board. We shall in due time solicit guidance from the WAS Home Office to ensure that the process is inclusive, transparent and effective, thereby producing strong office bearers capable of managing Chapter business progressively. We hope to have this executive board in place at a planned first African Chapter Annual Business Meeting, scheduled for September 2019.
To cement our position and practically justify our existence on the continent, we intend to hold the first WAS Regional Conference in Africa in 2020. First, we need to identify a strategic country to safely bring our WAS members together for the occasion. As such, we have begun to invite bids from prospective host countries. So far we have five target countries, each representing an African region: Egypt (North Africa), Kenya (East Africa), Ghana (West Africa), Gabon (Central Africa) and Zambia (Southern Africa). Other countries may eventually be useful for regional workshops, outreach activities and other events, which we again plan for in 2019.
By God’s grace, I am hoping to meet some, if not many of you at some international conferences scheduled for 2019: the International Conference on Aquatic Resources and Aquaculture for Sustainable Development (Ethiopia, January 2019), the Aquaculture Association for Southern Africa Conference–AASA (South Africa, September 2019 but especially at the WAS 2019 Conference in New Orleans (USA, March 2019).
In the next few months we shall be busy formally reaching out to many aquaculture and support actors from within Africa, the likes of SARNISSA, FAO, Regional Economic Communities in Africa, Aquaculture Network for Africa (ANAF), and many others that have expressed interest to partner with us. We shall also be working hard to get many of our members within Africa to renew their membership in WAS (a large number are in inactive mode) and to get new members on board. For the first time, on the WAS registration page we now have “African Chapter” listed as a Chapter of choice!
In all this, and for the journey ahead, I wish to shout out my special thanks to Dr. Kevan Main, Chairperson of the WAS African Chapter Ad hoc Committee who has been our pillar of strength, guiding us every step of the way and working determinedly with the Steering Committee and Interim Board to get things going. The WAS Home Office team has been very supportive. A big thank you to Dr. Bill Daniels (WAS Past President) and to our new WAS President, Dr. Maria Portella, for believing in us and to all on the WAS Board and Executive Committee.
Lastly, I appeal to all members of WAS resident in Africa to get engaged with us and be active in supporting many of our planned activities. We are busy improving our communication systems to ensure we easily and effectively reach out to as many of you as possible. Together, we can make a great and respectable professional society for aquaculture on the continent. Let’s walk the journey together in developing the African Chapter of WAS we all want!
— Sherif Sadek, Interim President