Most countries in Africa have significant and growing deficits in fish supply driven by stagnating supplies from capture fisheries due to years of overfishing, continued pressure to export fish for foreign currency and rising demand both locally and regionally. The deficit in Uganda is estimated at up to 100,000 tonnes per year. In Ghana, it is thought to be over 300,000 tonnes per year. This means that the proportion of fish protein in African diets has been falling in many countries in recent years and per capita consumption of fish in sub-Saharan Africa is the lowest of all regions of the world at 8kg/year (the global average is over 16kg/year).
It is widely recognised that the increasing supply gap will need to be met by farming fish. This consensus is also driven by the recognition that, with the continued and increasing pressure on resources and the impact of the human race on the environment, more efficient methods of food production will have to form an integral part of sustainable development strategies. Farming fish is one of the most efficient ways of producing animal protein with inputs typically five times less than farm-fed cattle and being twice as efficient as poultry production.
Global production of fish from aquaculture has grown rapidly during the past four decades, with over 50% of global fish production now coming from aquaculture. However, Africa has missed out on this explosion of production despite having many locations that are well suited to fish farming. Aquaculture only supplies around 3% of sub-Saharan Africa fish production.
The case of Egypt illustrates the potential for aquaculture that exists in many African countries with 700 % growth in production volumes in ten years. A significant opportunity exists for commercial aquaculture in Africa but it is imperative that the sector is developed sustainably avoiding many of the problems that have been seen in other parts of the world. Designed and executed correctly, aquaculture has significant sustainable development potential and can play a key role in poverty reduction, food security, sustainable livelihood and ecosystem / biomass protection strategies.