fishingSub-Saharan African countries lose roughly $20bn a year in illegal fishing and logging, according to a report by the Africa Progress Panel, a think-tank chaired by Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary-general.
The pressure on Africa?s fish and timber resources is increasing as demand from emerging markets grows, leading to higher global prices.
In its report to be published on Thursday, the panel said the illicit activities had parallels with the damaging consequences of tax evasion and loss of revenue through big mining concessions in Africa that it denounced last year.
?In each case resources that should be used for investment in Africa are being plundered through the activities of local elites and foreign investors,? the report said.
?The social, economic and human consequences are devastating,? it added.
The Africa Progress Panel includes on its board Michel Camdessus, the former IMF managing director; Olusegun Obasanjo, the former president of Nigeria; and Tidjane Thiam, chief executive of Prudential, the UK insurer.
Mr Annan said that a ?corrupt few? were amassing ?personal fortunes? on the back of illegal fishing and logging. ?If these problems are not addressed, we are sowing the seeds of a bitter harvest,? the former UN head said.
The African seaboard contains some of the world?s best-stocked ocean fishing grounds. In particular, the coasts of Mauritania, Namibia and Mozambique are a magnet to global fleets. The report said credible estimates suggested that most of the illegal activity could be ?traced to vessels from east Asia and Russia?.
Experts say the threat to African waters has increased over the past two years due to two new trends: global fish prices have leapt to all-time highs as China?s growing appetite for high-end species ? from tuna to oysters ? runs up against smaller catches; and conservation policies in the Americas and Europe.
West African countries alone could be losing more than $1bn a year, according to the report, suggesting that the amount for the entire continent would be much higher.
?These figures understate the real social, economic and environmental costs of overfishing. Unlike the mining and petroleum sectors, fisheries represent a critical source of employment, trade and food and nutrition security,? the report said.
The panel estimates that African countries are also losing around $17bn a year from illegal logging. The illicit trade in timber is contributing to the deforestation of the Congo basin rainforest, the world?s second largest after the Amazon.
Chinese companies are increasingly playing a role in the illegal logging and the panel warned that ?no multilateral framework on sustainable forest management in Africa will have credibility unless China is involved?.
The panel, which in past years has generated strong debate in Africa, recommended the region to adopt import substitution policies in agriculture as a way to reduce its $35bn yearly bill buying food overseas.
Some countries ? such as Nigeria, the continent?s largest economy ? have already imposed hefty custom duties on food imports, but the policy remains controversial with some experts saying it could damage food security.
Published in:?The Financial Times

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