Home Opinion Special Reports China-Africa Cooperation Advances Blue Economy Goals

China-Africa Cooperation Advances Blue Economy Goals

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Ghanas Blue Economy
Blue Economy

At midnight, fishers in Shimoni, a port village in southeastern Kenya’s Kwale County, started their day by setting wooden canoes afloat from the shore.

They turned on fish-attracting lights to lure in their catch, then relied on luck for the rest.

Three or four hours later, as dawn broke, they hauled in their nets and returned to shore, either jubilant with a bountiful catch or disappointed with a sparse one. Buckets of small pelagic fish, mainly anchovies, kept in ice, were given to the fish processing factory workers waiting on the shore.

“There were times when the market for anchovies was not good,” said Abdi Dura, who has been fishing since the age of 15. “I managed to catch great quantities of anchovies but found no market. I used to take my catch to ladies who sold grilled anchovies on the street, and they always bid for a lower price.”

Things have changed since Dura, along with hundreds of other fishers in Kwale, started working with China’s Jinzai Food Corporation two years ago.

WIN-WIN COOPERATION

In 2022, Chinese Customs authorized the import of Kenyan aquatic products. Soon after that, Jinzai Food registered as an importer and established a processing factory in Kwale.

Every morning, after being delivered from the shore, anchovies are cleaned, sorted and boiled in salt water for two minutes to stay fresh for storage. Depending on the sunlight, they are then dried for four to six hours. When their weight is reduced to one-third of the fresh fish, workers manually sort the qualified ones for shipment to China.

The first batch of Kenyan anchovies for import to China was showcased at the third edition of the China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo held in 2023.

“Fishing is a rewarding vocation that has enabled me to educate my children, feed them, and pursue other businesses on the side,” said Mohamed Chamira, a fisherman with 57 years of experience.

Chamira said over the past two years, he had partnered with a Chinese company, which helped him acquire advanced fishing techniques.

As the Chinese company inked partnerships with local fishermen and provided them with modern fishery facilities, Dura and his fellow fishermen perceived more opportunities.

“I aspire to own a large boat equipped with sophisticated fishing gear. It is my prayer that Kenyans understand and appreciate the vast resources in the ocean. The ocean is a blessing for us and could provide employment to the youth,” Dura added.

According to the African Union’s Africa Blue Economy Strategy, the total gross value-added of fisheries in Africa is estimated to be 1.26 percent of the GDP of all African countries. The scale of Africa’s blue economy is projected to increase to 405 billion U.S. dollars by 2030, and 576 billion dollars, creating 78 million jobs, by 2063.

The African Union’s 2063 Agenda identifies the blue economy as a strategic development priority for its members. However, challenges such as immature fishery technology, a lack of professional talents, insufficient investments and backward infrastructure remain to be addressed.

China’s marine economy has maintained rapid growth, leading the world in fisheries processing and production, shipbuilding, marine engineering equipment manufacturing, shipping, and port construction and operation.

China has been carrying out fishery cooperation with nearly 20 African countries and their partnerships hold huge potential.

TALENT TRAINING

At the Aquaculture Research and Development Centre in Kajjansi, a town in central Uganda, Chinese expert Chen Taihua was crouching by a fishpond, checking on the brood as a local fish breeding technician fed the fish.

The Chinese-built agriculture center is an achievement under the framework of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations-China South-South Program, now in its third phase in Uganda.

In November 2022, Chen, along with eight other Chinese experts, arrived in Uganda to implement a three-year experience-sharing project. They applied advanced techniques tailored to local conditions, such as implementing a 1,215-square-meter rice-fish system. The rice provides the fish with shelter and shade, while nitrogenous waste from the fish benefits the rice and reduces insects. Currently, the rice and fish form a mutualistic relationship, and 695 kg of rice has been harvested.

“Uganda is rich in aquatic resources. The problem is the locals’ lack of professional knowledge. We compiled 400 copies of manuals on Ugandan aquatic species and their marketing skills to train local farmers,” said Chen.

By March 2024, Chen’s team had carried out pond farming technology and market sales training in 10 regions in Uganda, benefiting hundreds of people.

Situated off the southeast coast of Africa, Madagascar is blessed with abundant fishery resources and is renowned for its shrimp grounds. In 2009, China National Fisheries Corporation (CNFC) acquired the poorly managed Madagascar Fisheries Company. It now exports about 1,000 tons of wild shrimp and about 4,000 to 5,000 tons of fish to China and the EU every year.

Sun Shengkang, a representative of the CNFC’s Madagascar office, said the project has remained profitable over the past 10 years. It has paid a total of 9.2 million dollars in taxes and 1.9 million dollars in resource management fees to Madagascar’s government, creating an average of 450 jobs each year, with more than 90 percent of its employees comprised of locals.

“After I completed my studies in accounting, CNFC recruited me in 2015. Over the years, I have gained valuable work experience, and my salary is sufficient to support my family,” said Razanadravaoarimanga Annissah, an accountant at CNFC’s Madagascar Fisheries Company.

“The company even funded my further studies, and I’ve obtained my master’s degree in management. I would never have had that opportunity without my company’s support,” said Annissah, who also met her sailor husband at CNFC and now has a happy family.

MODERN PORTS

Shipping activities and modern port cooperation between China and Africa are also rapidly developing.

Jamestown, a traditional fishing community on the shore of the Gulf of Guinea in Accra, the capital of Ghana, has relied on fishing for hundreds of years. In August 2020, a China-aided Jamestown Fishing Port Complex project commenced construction.

With a fully functional dock, spacious fish market and a fish processing plant, the modern fishing port is expected to be handed over soon. It will become a complex where fishermen can dock their boats, unload, maintain facilities, store fish, and conduct trading and additional processing activities.

“I cannot wait to see the port put into practice. It will not only improve the working environment and living standards of fishermen but also make Jamestown a neat community,” said Paul Owusu, a resident of Jamestown.

According to Jin Xiaodong, general manager of the fishing port project, the modern fishing port will undoubtedly bring new impetus to Ghana’s development in fishery. “We are very happy to contribute to the local economic and social development. It is a fruitful result of the friendship between China and Ghana.”

In 2016, China Road and Bridge Corporation completed the expansion and reconstruction project of the old Bata port, helping Equatorial Guinea maximize its regional competitiveness in the Gulf of Guinea.

In 2023, Tanzania’s first modern fishing harbor, Kilwa Harbor, constructed by China Harbor Engineering Company, was launched. As a flagship project of the Tanzanian government’s third five-year plan, it is expected to become an engine for economic growth.

Earlier this year, Nigeria’s first deep seaport, Lekki Port, developed by a Chinese enterprise, welcomed its largest container ship in history, making Nigerians’ longtime dream a reality.

“China has not only supported us in port construction but also provided valuable help in agricultural and fishery technologies. Through the introduction of advanced technology and equipment, our agricultural and fishery output has increased substantially, and the earnings of farmers and fishermen have also seen a notable increase,” Abdallah Ulega, minister of livestock and fisheries of Tanzania, told Xinhua.

“I believe that under joint efforts, China and Africa will continue to work together to achieve common prosperity in the vast sea,” he said.

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