World Aquaculture 2017 casts spotlight on Africa
African aquaculture signalled its coming-of-age at World Aquaculture 2017 (WA2017), the first international conference and exposition of the World Aquaculture Society (WAS) held on the African continent at the Cape Town International Convention Centre June 26-30, 2017.
The WA2017 meeting succeeded in attracting an entirely new pan-African participation to the international aquaculture community, with 1,297 of the delegates originating from 33 African countries. The total number of delegates at WA2017 was 1,981 representing 87 countries, which was complemented by the well supported trade show with 87 exhibitors.
The conference theme, "Sustainable Aquaculture - New Frontiers for Economic Growth - Spotlight on Africa" highlighted the potential of aquaculture production to support economic development and investment opportunities in Africa - the world's second fastest growing regional economy. The presentations and trade show activity confirmed that aquaculture in Africa is in a high growth phase, strongly supported by investors, government and international development and finance institutions.
World Aquaculture 2017 attracted substantial sponsorship and support from African governments, development institutions and the commercial sector. These included the South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), the African Union's Inter-African Union for Animal Resources and NEPAD, and the WorldFish Centre. The industry Gold Sponsor was the Aller-Aqua group from Denmark, which has indicated its confidence in the growing aquafeed market in Africa by making investments in feed manufacture and distribution in Egypt, Nigeria and Zambia.
The "Spotlight on Africa" theme provided a fascinating profile of the rapidly evolving sector in Africa. Keynote presentations by Dr. Rohanna Subasinghe, former Chief of Aquaculture for FAO, and Dr. Sloans Chimatiro, Acting Country Director with WorldFish Zambia, outlined the growing fish deficit in Africa and unfolding continental policies to support aquaculture development. Regional status reports highlighted the rapidly growing African aquaculture production, particularly catfish in Nigeria and tilapia in Egypt, Ghana, Uganda and Zambia. In recognition of the early developmental stage of African Aquaculture, special sessions on Developing African Aquaculture Value Chains, Financing African Aquaculture and African Aquaculture Policy Day were organised by the African Union, NEPAD, World Bank and WorldFish.
The highlight of the event was the consensus achieved to launch an African Chapter of the World Aquaculture Society. Substantial institutional support was committed to this process with the African Union's NEPAD Agency agreeing to host a WAS African Chapter Office and the South African DAFF providing seed finance.
The Student Programme included a special tour of the DAFF Marine Research Aquarium and a well-received writing workshop presented by Dr Rodrigue Yossa from Cameroon who was an inspiring role model for African students. Emerging student research talent was highlighted during Spotlight Presentations at the Plenary opening session where the top three student abstracts were presented. The best student abstract was won by an African student, Ms Rufaida Duhai of Sultan Qaboos University in Oman.
The Spotlight on Africa theme concluded with the WorldFish/SADC African Aquaculture Policy Day, which resulted in a joint policy statement being released by the Southern and East African Development Community stakeholders encouraging the establishment cooperative institutional frameworks for effective governance, creation of consolidated R&D centres of excellence for coordinated sustainable aquaculture research and investment in capacity building and educational programs.
Despite the travel distance and high cost for international delegates, WA17 attracted wide international participation, with representatives from 87 countries delivering 489 oral and 215 poster presentations.
Congratulations and endorsement of the meeting outcomes have poured in from many quarters including Sir Michael New (WAS President 1997-1998), AU Chairman H.E. Mr. Alpha Condé - President of the Republic of Guinea, Mr. Senzeni Zokwana - the South African Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and NEPAD CEO Dr. Ibrahim Assane Mayaki. The spirit of the meeting is captured in the words of Sir Michael New:
20 years ago I expressed two realisable dreams in my final President's Column in our WAS magazine.
The members of your boards, your steering and local organising committees and your conference and home office teams have this week achieved the second of those aspirations (my other was to witness the election of our first Asian President).
I can hardly explain how thrilled I was last night to hear that nearly 1,300 Africans from 33 African countries are here at our conference in Cape Town this week.
I wish to sincerely congratulate all of you and the many others, including our sponsors, who worked with you to achieve my dream. I know very well the amount of hard and prolonged work that you all have injected into this event. The expected formation of an African Chapter is the icing on the cake. Well done, all of you!
The meeting cemented the emerging relationship between the WAS and Africa which will be nurtured under the incoming WAS Presidency of Dr. Bill Daniels.
Here are stats for WA'17