Africa Program for Fisheries

The World Bank supports Africa’s commitment to invest in sustainable fisheries as a way to build the resilience and improve the livelihoods of coastal communities. Since 2005, the Africa Program for Fisheries has focused on sustainable use of the marine resources, governance of the sector and deep engagement with coastal communities. Transformative interventions are giving new hope to coastal communities.

Fisheries play significant social and nutritional roles in Africa. The sector contributes to food and nutrition security, and provides jobs, in particular for coastal populations, which are often among the poorest and most vulnerable. On average globally, fish and fish products account for 18% of animal protein intake. Due to the growing population and per capita income, demand for fish is expected to increase 30% by 2030. If the current trend continues without management, the poorest countries will suffer the most. Climate change aggravate these challenges with rising sea temperatures, harsher weather conditions for fishers, migration of fish to cooler waters away from the equator and shrinking fish size.

Fisheries contribute to Africa’s economy. Currently, fisheries and aquaculture directly contribute $24 billion to the African economy, representing 1.3% of the total African GDP in 2011. The sector provides employment to over 12 million people (58% in the fishing and 42% in the processing sector). While fishing jobs are almost entirely taken by men, 59% of the processing work is done by women. Employment multiplier effects are remarkable: for example, for every fisherman job, 1.04 additional onshore-job is created in Mauritania, while this ratio reaches 3.15 in Guinea, illustrating the potential for further job creation through value chain development.

In 2005, the Bank created a worldwide program to promote and facilitate fisheries and aquaculture’s contribution to sustainable growth, food security, women empowerment and poverty reduction. The Global Program on Fisheries (PROFISH) provided information, knowledge products and expertise to help design and implement good governance. Drawing upon PROFISH’s results, the Bank designed the West Africa Regional Fisheries Program (WARF-P), a $170 million investment with $120 million in the pipeline, covering coastal West Africa from Mauritania to Ghana. In 2015, the Bank approved the South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Governance and Shared Growth Program (SWIOFish), a $215.5 million investment with $100 million in the pipeline covering East Africa and neighboring island countries.

The African Union’s Agenda 2063 declares the Blue Economy to be “Africa’s Future,” and recognizes the key role the ocean plays as a catalyst for socioeconomic transformation. 





Weak governance and unsustainable fisheries management practices have resulted in habitat and fisheries degradation, overfishing and unprofitable fishing industries in West Africa. Overfishing is also the result of Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, costing the region an estimated USD$1.3 billion in lost legal revenues each year.  According to available estimates, bringing fisheries to a biologically and economically healthy state (rebuilding the stocks) globally would require roughly 44 percent reduction in aggregate fishing effort around the world (compared to the 2012 fishing effort recorded), which would provide additional 10-16.5 million tons of sustainable fish harvest each year, and up to US$83 billion in additional annual sustainable profits.

For Africa, it is estimated that the aggregate fishing effort would need to be reduced by over 50 percent to reach a profit-maximizing equilibrium, which would allow additional 1.9 million tons of catch per year and an increase in profits from US$.3 billion in 2012 to US$10.3 billion annually.

West African fisheries are severely impacted by Climate Change. The average decrease of maximum catch potential in West Africa is -8% under low GHG emission scenario by 2050s and -26% under high GHG emission scenario. These figures increase for countries closer to the equator: -23% to -53% in Nigeria, -39% to -56% in Cote d’Ivoire or -42% to -55% in Ghana under the low and high GHG emission scenario, respectively.

The West Africa Regional Fisheries Program (WARF-P), a USD $170 million investment with USD $120 million in the pipeline. Financed by the World Bank's IDA Fund, the Global Environment Facility, the Africa Catalytic Growth Fund (ACGF) and other partners, it aims to support countries maintain or increase priority fish stocks and the benefits that they can provide to West Africa, with a focus on benefits for poverty reduction and food security. The WARF-P is structured as a three-phase program which allows countries to gradually adopt and implement sectoral reform actions, focusing on priority fisheries and engaging fishing communities in local management actions. It aims to engage ten countries on West Africa coast, from Mauritania to Ghana: Cabo Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mauritania, Senegal and Sierra Leone, with Cote d’Ivoire and The Gambia being the final countries to join. Countries expressed their interest in a regional approach led by the Sub-Regional Fisheries Commission (SRFC) and the Fishery Committee of the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC). These organizations play a key role in the WARF-P by strengthening regional cooperation and fostering the harmonization of national policies on the sustainable utilization and management of fisheries resources. WARF-P country projects are designed with a regional approach built around the challenges faced by the region as well as tailored investments around countries’ specific challenges.

So far, the most comprehensive benefits of the program have been seen in Cabo Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Senegal and Sierra Leone, where phase 1 projects have been completed.  Transforming human and social capital and building institutional capacity have been the most important of these benefits. In Cabo Verde, Liberia, Senegal and Sierra Leone, fishing communities have been mobilized around defined management sites, with outputs from these pilots including the introduction of harvesting rule changes which at some sites supported the rebuilding of local coastal demersal fish stocks. Fisheries governance and management capacity increased also through project-supported changes to the rules controlling fish harvesting and the organizations administering and monitoring them: new policy statements were articulated and approved by governments and were translated into laws and regulations. In Senegal, fishery-specific management plans were developed and approved, and in Cabo Verde, Liberia, Senegal and Sierra Leone, the project supported the registration of 34,000 small-scale fishing boats as a means to monitor, and eventually control, countries’ fishing effort. The SRFC established a regionally-shared database “regional dashboard” for public disclosure of information such as fishing licenses and public revenues, to which countries’ data have been integrated.

Through collaboration with other donors active in the sector, the rate of illegal fishing was reduced in all countries. Increased number of days of sea patrol, training to surveillance staff, provision of necessary surveillance equipment and software, and improved inter-agency collaboration in all countries have resulted in a significant increase in inspections, prosecutions and revenues from fines for fishing infractions and from licenses in some countries. In Liberia for example, the government fined 48 fishing vessels for a total of over USD$6.4 million largely in the first three years of the project. These efforts were also associated with increased yields for coastal communities, such as the fishing community of Tombo in Sierra Leone, which reported a 42 percent increase in catch in 2015, and feedback from fishing communities in Robertsport, Liberia and nearby communities who indicated that the reduction in illegal fishing activities have led to higher revenues to communities from fishing.

IDA and ACGF funding supported the establishment of an artisanal landing site cluster in Robertsport, with improved fish handling and processing facilities, and a landing and quality control site in Mesurado Liberia, as well as a quality control laboratory in Alto Bandim, Guinea-Bissau, thus improving the counties’ capacity to increase the value of fish products locally.




South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Governance and Shared Growth Program (SWIOFish)

The South West Indian Ocean, where more than one hundred million people live within 100 kilometers from the coast, is a newer frontier for the Africa Fisheries Program.  Almost one third of fish stock is overexploited or depleted, while 40 percent are fully exploited. The annual economic loss due to poor management of SWIO fisheries is estimated at $225 million. In the Western Indian Ocean, sea temperatures increased by .6 Celsius in this decade, triggering coral bleaching and deadly climate-related disasters across the region.

The challenges and opportunities are regional in nature, with shared ecosystems and resources, common goals and challenges in poverty reduction and cross-border issues including the movement of fish and fishing fleets, regional seafood trade, and illegal fishing surveillance. In this context, the members of the South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission (SWIOFC) have requested the World Bank to support a regional approach to help manage and develop their fisheries sector. As a response, the World Bank has designed the South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Governance and Shared Growth Program (SWIOFish), financed by the World Bank's IDA and IBRD Funds, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Nordic Development Fund and Japan Policy and Human Development Resources Development Fund and the other partners.

SWIOFish aims to increase the economic, social, and environmental benefit of coastal communities. It will be implemented for a period of 15 years through sequential investments designed to improve the management and effectiveness of select fisheries and create better livelihoods. The World Bank support includes Somalia, Comoros, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Tanzania, South Africa, Mauritius and Seychelles, as well as Yemen and the Maldives.

The first SWIOFish project began in 2015 and supports the fisheries sector of Comoros, Mozambique and Tanzania and regional activities implemented by the Indian Ocean Commission. The second, third and fourth projects, are now supporting the fisheries of Madagascar, Seychelles and Maldives and provide them additional resources to implement regional strategies at national level. These projects support the goal of eradicating extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity through their emphasis on artisanal fishers who are often among the poorest and most vulnerable of coastal communities.

In 2017, the SWIOFC countries unanimously endorsed guidelines for Minimum Terms and Conditions for Foreign Fisheries Access in the SWIOC region. The same year the countries have coordinated their positions in the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, strengthening their weight in international forums.

Kenya Coastal Program


Most of Kenya’s coastal region rely on coastal and marine ecosystems for their employment, livelihood and nutrition. Since 2010, the World Bank and Global Environment Facility supported the Government of Kenya in improving the management effectiveness of the country’s coastal and marine resources. Through the Kenya Coastal Development Project (KCDP), a US$35 million investment, which closed in June 2017, regional coordination across neighboring countries with SWIOFish support has been fostered, the management of coastal and marine resources has been improved, and community livelihoods have been enhanced.

Key achievements include increased revenue generation of the fisheries sector, improved governance through the installation of a Vessel Monitoring System and the development of fisheries management plans, and improved fisheries infrastructure. In addition, community driven projects, including in vulnerable and marginalized communities, provided alternative livelihoods to the fisheries sector. Community members have become entrepreneurs through activities such as seaweed farming identified as an efficient way toward the social and economic development of coastal areas. Community enterprises such as the Kibuyuni Seaweed Farmers were connected with Seaweed East Africa Company and are now selling to China, Ireland, and Malaysia.

A new project, the Kenya Marine Fisheries and Socio-Economic Development Project, is currently being prepared with support from the World Bank, by building on the outcomes achieved under the recently closed KCDP. Aimed at supporting the Government of Kenya in implementing its blue economy agenda, the project is expected to (i) strengthen governance and management of marine fisheries and aquatic resources; (ii) promote investment in marine fisheries and coastal aquaculture; and (iii) strengthen marine fisheries and aquaculture-based livelihoods in coastal communities. The support is expected to amount to about USD$100 million, and to be approved in 2018.

Climate change is taking its toll on marine ecosystems, fisheries, and the millions of fishers whose livelihoods depend on them. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the intensity of the impacts combined with the reduced adaptation capacity of many in the fisheries sector contribute to the vulnerability of these fishers, their families and communities. Despite this growing body of evidence from assessments, both modeled and observed, more study is needed to better understand these impacts. Policy makers, donors and other stakeholders urgently need additional analysis, evidence-based information, and especially prioritized, cost-effective options to guide investments and initiatives towards climate change mitigation and adaptation, with the goal of maximizing the prospects for development and poverty reduction throughout the continent.

To that end, this Climate Resilient Fisheries initiative will first call on a robust network of partners and contributors to contribute to a report aimed at filling this knowledge gap and providing a prioritized, cost-effective toolkit of policy options to guide investments towards resilience. This body of work aims to put forth an integrated approach between development strategies and climate change mitigation and adaptation measures in the context of marine fisheries in Sub-Saharan Africa. This work will be organized around a series of volumes: Volume I will focus on i) the stock-taking of available knowledge on the economic importance of marine fisheries in Sub-Saharan Africa and the populations that depend on them; ii) a bio- physical analysis of the impacts of climate change, as they have already been measured and how they are modeled to evolve ; iii) a socio-economic analysis of the same impacts of climate change impacts; iv) and, a set of preliminary estimates of vulnerability in marine fisheries.

Experts invited to this interactive meeting will help identify key knowledge gaps, exchange views, and agree on research recommendations that can feed into the report’s agenda (Volume I and Volume II).