African Chapter President's Column - June 2022
The baton has just been handed to me! And as the new President of the African Chapter of WAS, what a privilege and honor to lead one of the fastest growing and most dynamic chapters of WAS for the next two years. I am highly indebted to the WAS Board and membership for this opportunity. Let me also pay special tribute to my predecessor and the first President of the African Chapter, Dr. Sherif Sadek, for being an outstanding pacesetter in many facets. I have learned a lot from his good leadership. He wrote twelve insightful magazine columns and these regularly updated us on our Chapter’s vision, developments and activities. I am now continuing from where he left off. I also extend my gratitude to the Chapter’s Executive Officer, Blessing Mapfumo, for his contributions to all columns.
We recently had the long-awaited inaugural Aquaculture Africa Conference and Exposition (AFRAQ21) in Alexandria, Egypt (25-28 March 2022). I am happy to announce that, despite all challenges faced prior to the event, we finally had it and to a good standard. Those who attended would attest that it was a great success. Many thanks to the conference organizing team who worked tirelessly to get things done. Special thanks go to the Egyptian government, our sponsors, partners, exhibitors and attendees: you contributed to this momentous achievement.
AFRAQ21 attracted nearly 1700 registrations from 77 countries (both conference and visitors to the trade show), with the bulk of these registrations from Egypt. The well-organized exhibition platform featured 51 booths from 22 countries from around the world. In addition to networking opportunities that the conference rendered, the scientific/technical program featured 34 sessions, 261 abstracts and 58 posters. Being WAS AC’s first Aquaculture Africa Conference, we learnt lessons that provided areas of improvement for subsequent AFRAQ annual conferences. The second Aquaculture Africa Conference (AFRAQ23) will be held 12-15 November 2023 in Lusaka, Zambia. We will launch the AFRAQ23 in early July 2022 and updates will be provided.
We also had the second African Chapter Board of Directors Meeting in Alexandria, where we discussed chapter governance and decisions to take the Chapter forward. The physical meeting was a special opportunity for the Board to meet and know each other face to face, some for the first time. COVID wouldn’t have allowed this over the past two and half years. We were honored to have WAS President Antonio Garza de Yta among us during the meeting.
Although the Chapter is growing modestly in all facets, I took note from the meeting that there is still much to be done to strengthen our position and to deliver according to our mandate. Our structures are working soundly but we need more financial resources, sound student programs, improved research and information dissemination structures — just to mention a few areas. I will unpack these in my next columns as we strategize on the way forward. During my term, I desire to focus more on WAS-initiated programs on gender and youth empowerment on aquaculture in Africa, as this has become a top priority on the continent. I am hopeful that the Chapter Committees will work diligently to address many of these issues during the year.
The African Chapter Annual Business Meeting was also successfully held on 27 March 2022 as a special session of the AFRAQ21 Conference. Dubbed “WAS AC-All Africa Aquaculture Session,” the meeting, which was moderated by our partner Aquaculture Africa Magazine and sponsored by Aller Aqua (our Founding Gold Sponsor), was attended by over 70 participants, which included Board and Committee members, AFRAQ21 organizing teams, WAS members, partners and invited guests. The meeting was a special interface among African Chapter officials, members and strategic partners to present Chapter progress, opportunities, challenges and discuss future collaborative arrangements. The meeting also appreciated AFRAQ21 organizing committees, outgoing Board members (Dr. Karisa and Dr. Kefi), and the introduction of new Board members to the larger audience.
The success of AFRAQ21 ignited some energy in the Chapter, as I am seeing Board members, WAS members and partners in Africa in active mode, getting more confident and enthusiastic to drive Chapter business forward. I can see a number of activities lined up already. For instance, we just launched the 2nd Regional Conference on Aquaculture in West Africa scheduled for Nigeria (16-19 October 2022), and the 2nd Regional Conference on Aquaculture in East Africa, Kenya (21-25 September 2022). Both will be hybrid events. Our special affiliate partner, the Aquaculture Association of Southern Africa Conference (AASA) is also holding their 14th Biennial Conference on 11-15 July 2022 in Stellenbosch, South Africa. The African Chapter will fully participate at the event. I have been invited to give a keynote address on recent developments on aquaculture in Africa. Make sure you register and don’t miss these exciting events.
We will also be launching the much-awaited outreach missions to central Africa (Angola) and Northwest Africa (Morocco), where our regional directors are working with the membership there to develop an action plan to serve the aquaculture sector and community in these regions. We also hope to continue some webinar sessions on some special subjects of interest on aquaculture development in Africa, together with our partners that include Aquaculture Africa Magazine.
I would also like to share information on a decision made by the WAS Board of Directors in Mérida, Mexico. Africa has been given the opportunity to host another global World Aquaculture conference (WAS 2025) that will be hosted in Uganda. Dubbed “Aquaculture Safari 2025,” it will be organized with support from the ongoing EU-funded True-Fish project being implemented in East Africa, primarily working in the Lake Victoria basin that is bordered by Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. I am overly excited about this development and will be talking more about it in future columns.
Until the next column, stay safe and blessed as always.
— John Kilemerwa Walakira, President