World Aquaculture Society


African Chapter President's Column September 2023

As we begin the home-stretch to the much awaited 2nd Aquaculture Africa Conference (AFRAQ23), scheduled for Zambia (13-16 November 2023), I thought I should reflect more on the theme of the event: Resilient value chains in the blue economy. This theme augurs well with what the sector has experienced in recent years – a myriad of emerging threats in addition to known traditional and long-term challenges. Overall, issues related to the high costs of doing business in aquaculture have by-and-large taken center as a knock-on effect to aquaculture development in Africa this season. Sector actors are also still reeling from shocks and supply chain disruptions caused by impacts of COVID-19, impacts of the Russia/Ukraine war and the unstable geo-political situation in some African countries. And yet, we are still in the midst of dealing with some of the most difficult challenges such as climate change, which has largely been blamed on the recent wave of fish farm flooding, water scarcity and other negative impacts. The recent emergence and proliferation of aquatic diseases in some regions has been a cause for concern.

Despite a myriad of these challenges, I must applaud the resilience of the sector, which keeps going sustainably and new investments keep cropping up. We have seen general growth and expansion of production around the Great Lakes Region and the Zambezi region – a demonstration that adopting innovations of ensuring the various country contexts and social settings and how the production, supply and market continue to operate sustainably can work under the backbone of a stable macro-economic environment.

The key message out of all this, which we hope to discuss more at AFRAQ23 is that there is a desperate need for collaboration among key stakeholders to strongly focus on building elements of a sustainable and innovative aquaculture value chain practice supported by an enabling policy. These include interrelated activities to ensure prevention, preparedness (including early warning), innovative responses and recovery for a wide range of natural, technological and complex disasters that can impact aquaculture operations and livelihoods. The role of developmental agencies and researchers is paramount in the mix. Zambia, the host country for AFRAQ23 offers some lessons on how the country has managed to weather through many of these storms thus remaining one of the fastest growing aquaculture producer countries in Africa.

Preparations for AFRAQ23 were given a boost in early August 2023 following the signature of the hosting agreement by Zambia’s Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock. This special gesture means the Government of Zambia is fully committed to collaborate with WAS in ensuring smooth organization of the event through financial commitments, support to the hiring of convention centre, appointment of State Officials to the conference’s National Organizing Committee, national promotions, and high-level officiation to the event among other roles and commitments. I was delighted to personally meet the Minister of Fisheries and Livestock and his delegation in July in Lusaka and to sign the AFRAQ23 hosting agreement on behalf of the WAS.

In addition to a well-structured scientific/ technical programme covering all aspects on aquaculture development in Africa, other highlights include special sessions by the FAO and its partners, Africa Union agencies, Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), University of Zambia, World Aquatic Veterinary Medical Association (WAVMA), World Initiative on Soy in Human Health (WISHH), GIZ, and industry sessions spearheaded by our Founding Gold Sponsor, Aller Aqua Ltd and others. Many other session sponsors and exhibitors are increasingly expressing their interest to participate at AFRAQ23. Surely there will be something for everyone there!

We are anticipating having the Chapter’s inaugural students’ workshop as well as the first honors and awards ceremony at AFRAQ23. The WAS AC Board will have its Annual Board Meeting and the Chapter’s Annual Business Meeting slated on schedule. A post-conference aquaculture tour is being planned, hopefully on 17th November to Lake Kariba - one of the epicenters for freshwater aquaculture production in Africa, and also to some aquaculture facilities of interest around Lusaka and Kafue. I believe AFRAQ23 will undoubtedly be the best place to be for many of our audience, as we aspire to learn more and connect with a diverse range of aquaculture players in Africa and globally. Make sure you are booked to attend this event!

I am a beneficiary and product of the WAS student development programme (since my University days) and I am therefore passionate and excited to see African students benefiting from our products and services. One of my main flagship calls since assuming the AC Presidency was on advocating for a sound WAS AC Student development. I am delighted to report that we have begun domesticating the new WAS student policy in Africa through the recent launch of the WAS AC Student Forum (August 2023) - a platform where African students can connect with each other, embrace new experiences, and expand their knowledge thus leveraging on valuable insights from our diverse network and activities. The process is still under development and is expected to see a user-friendly, free of charge student registration process to WAS. We hope to also conduct regular student webinar sessions, workshops and strategic awards at future AFRAQs. I am grateful to the WAS AC Students Managers Dr. Khalid Salie and Dr. Nyiko Mabasa (Stellenbosch University, South Africa), with support from WAS Student Director (Dr. Nicole Rhody) for taking lead on this initiative.

I had hoped to be with some of you at the World Aquaculture 2023 meeting in Darwin Australia. Unfortunately, I could not make it due to visa processing challenges - which admittedly is a major challenge for us Africans to attend some international events. However, I was delighted to hear the Conference was another great success (post-covid); and that the AC reports were highly appreciated by the WAS Board. It was also an honour to have an Africa Aquaculture Session on this global platform - which I understand was well attended by those connected to, or interested in aquaculture developments in Africa.

Lastly, let me end by congratulating Dr. Humberto Villarreal for being elected the new President of the WAS, and all new incoming Directors — including our very own WAS AC champions; Etienne Hinrichsen (South Africa) and Shivaun Leonard (USA). The WAS AC is also in the process of electing some office bearers this season, hopefully in October 2023. Let me also congratulate Dr. Greg Lutz for taking on the mantle to be the new chief editor of the WAM. As AC, we stand ready to provide improved and informative articles showcasing aquaculture developments in Africa!

This could probably be my second last column before I hand over the mantle to the incoming AC President in November 2023. It has been an exciting two-year journey drafting these summary presidential manuscripts on what WAS AC is doing in serving aquaculture development in Africa. I am forever grateful!

I hope to see many of you at AFRAQ23, Zambia!

— John K. Walakira, President

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