Strategic Partnership for Sustainable Fisheries Investment Fund


Since 2004, the African Union (AU) has given the fisheries sector the attention it requires to grow and the African Union Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) has demonstrated its commitment to support and develop the fisheries in Africa to ensure the sector contributes to the continent's economic growth. As a start, the fisheries issues are now well covered in the newly developed AU-IBAR Strategic Plan.


The Large Marine Ecosystems (LME) of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) have a wealth of globally significant marine biodiversity with some of the world's most fertile fishing grounds, many of which are transboundary. It is estimated that some 2.7 million people in the region are engaged in coastal and inland fishing activities on a full or part-time basis, for both subsistence and commerce. Fish also provides about 23% of total animal protein intake in sub-Saharan Africa, significantly higher than the global average of 16%. The estimated value of net exports of fish products for the continent in 2001 was US$ 1.7 billion, exceeding the net foreign exchange income reported for any other agricultural commodity.

Many governments in sub-Saharan Africa do not have the financial resources or capacity to prevent overexploitation of their fisheries resources or to protect the critical habitats that support them. The regional fisheries management organizations in sub-Saharan Africa do not have sufficient funds to assist individual coastal countries to implement the needed governance reforms in fisheries. Taking cognizance of these needs, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) availed the Sustainable Fisheries Investment Fund for SSA country and regional-level projects to address the fisheries management and coastal communities' poverty challenges.

Strategic Partnership for Sustainable Fisheries Investment Fund (SPFIF) project

The project has two components: the Sustainable Fisheries Investment Fund component to assist countries better manage their fisheries; and the Strategic Partnership component that assists to disseminate lessons learned from investments facilitated by the Fund. The project is advised by stakeholders led by the African Union through a Regional Advisory Committee (RAC) with a secretariat based at the AU-IBAR, Nairobi, Kenya.


The project had two components:

  1. The partnership Investment Fund (PIF) component whose mandate was to assist AU member states to better manage their fisheries through a co-financing mechanism.
  2. The Strategic Partnership (SP) component that meant to assist in disseminating lessons learned from the investments facilitated by the fund.

The overall objective was to promote the sustainable use of fisheries resources and the management of marine ecosystems that support them with the aim of facilitating effective poverty alleviation and provision of a sustainable income growth of fishing communities of Sub-Saharan Africa. Specifically, the project aimed at:

  1. Strengthening regional coordination in order to ensure complimentarity among country-level and regional projects especially with respect to management of trans-boundary fish resources.
  2. Accelerate country-level investments and actions in fisheries to assist individual coastal countries in Sub-Saharan Africa undertake the necessary governance reforms and sector adjustments towards sustainable management of the fisheries in a way that ensures distribution of benefits that will contribute to poverty reduction and improved food security.
  3. Promote learning, information exchange and capacity building at the regional level to ensure that the lessons from successes and failures are disseminated and can provide examples that align governments and stakeholders around a common understanding of the fisheries reforms necessary to meet the WSSD targets.
  4. Encourage direct financial support to the fisheries sector in order to meet the sustainable development objectives in fisheries and a reduction in poverty and vulnerability.
  5. Ensure sustainable use of fisheries resources is achieved in at least 10 countries in the Large Marine Ecosystems of Sub-Saharan African by 2015.

The fisheries resources in the LMEs of Africa are both poorly governed and managed and are often transboundary in nature. The SPFIF initiative therefore focussed at expanding capacity-building to a limited number of transboundary systems through integrated approaches and fostering replication through targeted learning.

The SPFIF was an initiative for the Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs) of Sub-Saharan Africa and designed to promote sustainable management of fisheries resources in the LMEs towards achieving sustainable fisheries and poverty reduction targets set by the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2002. This was in response to the observation that the fisheries of the Sub-Africa LMEs (that is the Guinea Current, the Canary Current, the Agulhas and Somali Currents and the Benguela Current) are threatened from pervasive destruction of critical habitats of fish stocks and also over-fishing of valuable fish resources. The situation was also accelerated by absence of coordination mechanism in the governance of the sector.

The project started in November 2005. The initiative was in two parts:

  1. The investment fund to co-finance innovative projects in coastal African countries aimed at implementing the reforms needed to advance towards sustainability in selected fisheries and
  2. A strategic partnership led by the African Union to help support the exchange and dissemination of lessons learned from the projects co-financed by the investment fund, as well as to enhance implementation of these investments in general.

Project funding was by Global Environment Facility (GEF) Council, executed by the World Bank and implemented by AU-IBAR. The Regional Advisory Coordinating Committee Secretariat (RACC) of the project was hosted by AU-IBAR. The regional activities were coordinated by the RACC Secretariat with assistance from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The Project (SPFIF 1) was implemented from 2005 to 2011.

Best Practises

Some of the lesson learned and best practices from LME projects that benefitted from the fisheries investment fund:

1. Kenya Coastal Development project (KCDP)

The project objective is to promote environmentally sustainable management of Kenya's coastal and marine resources, to be achieved by strengthening the capacity of existing relevant government agencies and by enhancing the capacity of rural micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in selected coastal communities. The useful lessons learned from the project included:

  1. The project concept note and project appraisal document preparation were lengthy processes due to the involvement of different partners, mainly from parallel government institutions.
  2. The project coordinating institution did not possess the required authority and power to convene planning meetings and thus very often quorum was not attained to conduct the meeting.
  3. The capacity building strategy was very sound and worthy of emulation by donor assisted projects in fisheries. The project coordinating unit was integrated into the Kenyan Government structured and this is important to ensure sustainability. Also the World Bank provided training to the project staff on procurement and financial procedures. This ensured smooth project implementation and financial management.

2. The Marine and Coastal Environmental Management Project (MACEMP), Tanzania

MACEMP aims at strengthening the sustainable management and use of the Tanzanian's Exclusive Economic Zone, territorial seas, and coastal resources resulting in enhanced revenue collection, reduced threats to the environment, better livelihoods for participating coastal communities living in the Coastal Districts and improved institutional arrangements.
Key lessons include:

  1. Community-level alternative livelihoods activities and sub-projects whose beneficiaries are well targeted and are funded through revolving Community Village Funds will reach many more people in the community and are likely to be more sustainable.
  2. Community- level alternative livelihood projects that are backed by an organized, committed local leadership are more likely to succeed than those without.
  3. Sustainable marine and coastal management interventions and impacts on LMEs are long term in nature. Multi-phase programs building on the successes of earlier phases are best suited for this kind of programming.
  4. Unrealistic community expectations should be addressed as early as possible to avoid later misunderstandings and lowered trust and participation by communities in project activities.

3. The West Africa Regional Fisheries programme

This project implementation is coordinated by the Sub-Region Fisheries Commission (SRFC): The countries involved include; Senegal, Cape Verde, Liberia, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Guinea Bissau.
Through this project a coordinated fisheries management systems that will assist in the reduction of illegal fishing will be created.
Some of the lessons learned include:

  1. The Sustainable Management of Fisheries Resources Project in Senegal: the establishment and management of Marine protected Areas (MPAs) for sustainable management of fisheries resources has enhanced stocks conservation.
  2. Liberia has demonstrated that through review of the legal framework that locked out foreign fishing vessels followed by enforcement, the fishery would recover and local fishers would benefit immensely by harvesting bigger fish.
  3. The establishment of clear functional units such as the Policy and Planning Unit; Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) Unit; and the Commercial Fisheries Unit in Sierra Leone. They have also used new Regulations to ban pair trawling and the use of mono-filament netting materials for fishing purposes and this has led to an increase in fish stock levels. All these actions imparted positively on fisheries management and increased revenue from the sector.

The main activities of the project at the regional level focused on coordination, communication and capacity building for the rational management of fisheries on the continent. At national level, the project also assisted AU member states for development of concept notes and full proposal to help secure GEF and World Bank funding. The project provided technical backstopping to country level project implementation and conducted Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) missions to ensure sound project implementation.


The expected outcomes from the project activities:

  1. Greater knowledge created in best practices in fisheries management in Africa and awareness of trends in global fisheries promoted.
  2. Increased financial support and commitment to fisheries reform by African Union Member States.
  3. Increased capacity of Regional Fisheries Bodies (RFBs) and the Large Marine Ecosystems (LME) projects, regional collaboration for effective transboundary fisheries management.
  4. Implementation of policies and legislation for good governance in fisheries management.

The main achievements were:

  1. The SPFIF Project catalysed funding by the GEF Council and the World Bank and launching of country level projects from seven African countries (Senegal, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cape Verde, Ghana, Guinea Bissau and Kenya) to enhance sustainable management of their coastal fisheries resources , 2009-2011 (see table 1. For the next phase (2013-2016), the project also helped secured much needed funding for four countries (Comoros, Mauritania, Mozambique and Tanzania) to also enhance sustainable coastal fisheries for increased contribution to socio-economic growth (see table 2).
    Table 1. GEF funding for country investment projects in 2009-2011
    Country GEF (Million US$)
    Senegal 6
    Cape Verde 2
    Liberia 3
    Sierra Leone 5
    Guinea Bissau 1
    Kenya 5
    Ghana 4
    Total 26
    Table 2. GEF funding for country investment projects in 2013-2016
    Country GEF (Million US$)
    Comoros 3.5
    Mauritania 7
    Mozambique 7
    Tanzania 5
    Strategic Partnership Coordination 2.5
    Total 25
  2. The project also facilitated additional funding assistance from the GEF Council for strategic partnership coordination in fisheries for both in SPFIF 1 and the next phase of SPFIF. The partnership funding secured for the next phase is US$ 2.5
  3. The Partnership initiated the process for establishment of a coordination mechanism for key players in fisheries sector to ensure coherent development. A structure for coordination mechanism was developed (and their institutional linkages) which was approved by section of stakeholders. Expanding the scope of this initiative to include NPCA and other partners such as the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) has broadened the impact of the partnership.
  4. Facilitation of the development of a realistic fisheries policy, legal and institutional frameworks at AU MS and regional levels for sustainable wealth generation from fisheries exploitation through dissemination of best practices and fisheries management information. Thus the project significantly contributed to good governance of the fisheries sector by dissemination of lessons learnt through publications of newsletters and an 'African Fisheries Partnership Digest' which was periodically published to inform stakeholders on progress.
  5. There is improved information exchange among key players in fisheries sector and the leadership role of the African Union is now recognized and appreciated as critical to expeditious fisheries development.
  6. Contributed significantly to establishing an African Union policy organ for African fisheries – Conference of African ministers of fisheries and aquaculture (CAMFA). The ongoing process of creation of a Fisheries section with permanent staff within AU-IBAR, and the establishment of the CAMFA secretariat, is demonstration of AU commitment to support fisheries development. This impact of the initiative on the AU has been significant and likely permanent.

The fisheries sector in Africa suffers from pervasive overexploitation and resource depletion, with serious socio-economic impacts on coastal communities and food security. At the ecosystem level, there was a need to cooperate in addressing these challenges in order to achieve effective and sound management of fisheries resources, including transboundry fish stocks. The barriers to successful cooperation at the Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs) and subregional levels were identified as follows:

  1. Insufficient human and financial resources for international cooperation.
  2. Inadequate institutional arrangements for coordination and exchange of information.
  3. Insufficient harmonization of legislation and procedures.
  4. Insufficient data and analysis of status and trends in transboundary resources.

In view of these concerns, the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) sponsored sub-regional  LMEs programmes in each of the five LMEs in Sub-Saharan Africa- the Guinea Current LME, the Canary Current LME, the Benguela Current LME, the Agulhas and Somali Current LME. This was the first step towards assisting coastal countries in African Union member states to manage and sustain their fisheries resources and to protect the critical habitats that support them.

Accordingly, the Word Bank prepared a concept note for establishing a strategic partnership for fisheries investment fund in the LMEs of Sub Sahara Africa. There was however a need to align the project concept with AU priorities for sustainable fisheries, Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) frameworks, World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) and Millenium Development Goals (MDG) targets. The concept was approved by GEF in 2003 and the World Bank consulted FAO and WWF to serve as partners in the development of the initiative. In 2005, the project was approved by GEF Council.

The project was implemented by AU-IBAR in partnership with FAO and WWF and activities concluded in August 2011.

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