Many countries in Africa are starting to turn the corner economically. With global economic powers looking for new sources of everything from minerals to food products, Africa has attracted heaps of investment in recent years. But the effects are not necessarily benefiting everyone in Africa, and there is mounting concern that many will not share in the riches.
One sector where African countries have a disadvantage is fishing. Africans lack the massive boats and trawlers that scour international waters. Local fisherman generally are limited to small boats that can only go a few miles offshore. As the global demand for fish from anywhere continues to spike – and has become more difficult to source – fishermen in nations like Senegal and Ghana are finding that they cannot compete with their international competitors. Basic protein needs, therefore, fall to the wayside as nations with far more affluent mouths to feed scrape the ocean floors. Now an economist suggests that such nations tax commercial fishing off their coasts in order to preserve fish stocks and maintain local economic development.
Kofi Vondolia, an economist who is finishing his doctoral work at the University of Gothenburg, suggests that the United Nations has not done enough to regulate fishing fleets off the shores of Africa. Current protocol allows international fishing operations to cull “surplus” fish from zones that are further out to sea, but the results have been depleted fish for local populations. Vondolia points out that in Ghana, for example, that smaller-scale fishing fleets are seeing local fish stocks decline as larger fleets consume what the UN assumed were plentiful supplies of fish.
To that end, Vondolia created an economic model that calculates taxes that African governments can impose on foreign fishing vessels and companies that fish off their shores. Current statistics do not account for the fish that move closer to the shores of countries along the Atlantic and Gulf of Guinea. Therefore, a tax or duty could be calculated and operated in numerous ways: grow revenues for a country while discouraging offshore fishing; factor in the number of far-flung offshore fish as opposed those closer to these nations’ coasts; base a levy on the fish reproduction rate; account for costs of harvesting; and ascertain the social discounting rate. As Vondolia was quoted in Science Daily:
The fees foreign trawlers pay for offshore fishing at present are very low in comparison to our calculations. It is unlikely that the current level of charges lead to the highest possible welfare for the countries with fishing zones in which foreign vessels are fishing.
The big questions is whether a tax can be enforced, and whether the funds, if collected, would actually benefit the people that such a levy is purporting to help. Regardless of what the outcomes will be, the question of overfishing is yet another problem Africa, the last frontier for natural resources, will face as other countries seek to exploit its riches.