If governments ignore you, talk to the African Union

SMALL-scale fishing organisations in Africa, whose governments refuse to engage them on important policy and other issues, can now have recourse to the African Union (AU).

This is the view of Mandla Gqamlana, Programme Manager at Masifundise Development, who attended the AU – Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) recently.

The meeting took place from August 6 -8, in Nairobi, Kenya and non-state actors in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors in all the regions of Africa attended.

“The purpose of the meeting was to respond to a commitment made in the last Conference of African Minsters of Fisheries and Aquaculture (CAMFA) meeting,’ said Nqamlana.

“At that conference CAMFA delegates noted that it was important for governments to recognise non-state actors as important actors to drive the developmental agenda in the continent.”

The meeting in August took stock of the extent and the level of the non-state sector organisations in the fisheries and aquaculture industries in all the regions of the continent.

It enables the AU to have a sense of who is active, who is not active, where support is needed, the status of different organisations, whether they are national, provincial or regional structures, as well as the activities they are involved in.

“At the meeting, each region was given a time and a space to talk about their situation, and how strong they are.

A plan of action has been developed for each region to get all their information up-to-date, and to develop a keen sense of what is happening within the region.”

Nqamlana said that the disorganised regions were the tasks to make contact with other organisations within the regions, within countries and across borders, to build the regions.

“If each region is organised, the continent will be organised.”

Southern Africa, or the SADC Region, was only represented by South Africa and The Seychelles and was identified as the least organised regions.

Masifundise Developmental Trust and the South African United Fishers Front (SAUFF) from South Africa, and Apostles of the Seas from The Seychelles represented the SADC Region.

One of the benefits of the activities coming out of the meeting is that fisheries will be mainstreamed into the agenda of the AU, and can play a big role towards the eradication of poverty in the continent, according to Gqamlana.

Another objective is to draw up a database of all organisations working in fisheries and aquaculture, with whom all countries that are part of the AU will have to talk to regarding issues and concerns in the fishing industry.

Gqamlana says that in many countries, non-state organisations get resistance from governments around policy and implementation issues, but this is a clear indication that the AU sees value in non-state organisations.

This will force governments to work with non-state organisations, and can open doors to engage governments on important issues.

Gqamlana also says that since CAMFA has started this conversation, the issues of small-scale fishing have now been elevated to a continental level, and will be mainstreamed into the agendas of many governments.

“When appropriate fisheries departments do not want to engage, small scale fishing organisations in the future, can draw their attention to the commitment that was made by CAMFA, and they can be compelled to engage.”

Now Gqamlana said that he is not certain where the funds are going to come from to get the activities of the group in the region going.

He believes that governments will not sponsor such activities, because they already contribute to the upkeep of the AU, and hopefully the AU will fund the activities.

The meeting was also mindful of the difficulties faced by organisations in all the regions, and did not set a deadline for when the database of organisations will be completed.

No date and venue has been set for a future follow-up meeting, but, he says an important meeting on food security and sovereignty will take place in Maputo soon, and that fishing will be discussed in the broader context of food sovereignty.


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