An article published by China Economic Net highlights that, in the next years, fisheries may become a key area for developing business links between China and Africa, and increasing Chinese investments in African fisheries. Currently, these investments, worth around US$6 billion per year, provide 500,000 tonnes of fish products, half of which is processed and sold on the EU market, and one-third is sold in China.
The secretary general of China Centre for the International Economic Exchange stated that Africa will probably ‘replace the European Union as China’s biggest trade partner in the next few years’ and fisheries will play an important role in this partnership.
Currently, China is already the biggest foreign presence in the African fishing industry, followed by the United States, the EU and Japan. Aquaculture is an area where developments will occur, with support from Chinese investments, but it is highlighted that investments will also cover refrigeration plants, processing factories and shipyards to better accommodate Chinese fishing operations in African waters.
However, the article reports that the vice-president of the China Overseas Fisheries Association underlined that ‘he does not see booming China–Africa fishery cooperation unless African countries change their policies restricting foreign businesses’. These restrictions include limitations on the purchase of fishing rights and licences, and on the benefits that can be sent back to China.
Private and public investments in African fisheries are needed to develop activities that can generate added value to the fisheries resources, and added well-being for African populations, particularly those communities depending on fisheries for their livelihoods, increased household revenues, increased food security, job creation, etc. Therefore, such a commitment by China, as well as by other potential investors including from the EU, are to be welcomed. However, in most cases, foreign investments in African fisheries are conditional upon the allocation of access rights for the companies involved. A precautionary approach is advisable, so that the allocation of such access rights to foreign fleets does not contribute to weakening the fisheries resources base, ultimately jeopardising the benefits that can be drawn from these resources and the livelihoods of fishing communities.