The EU and Africa are working together to both protect the ocean and develop sustainable activities.
In 2017, during the 5th EU-African Union Summit, leaders adopted the Abidjan Declaration committing to strengthening their cooperation.
This commitment includes addressing illegal exploitation of natural resources, managing natural resources sustainably, tackling climate change impacts, and ensuring maritime security. Leaders also focused on areas with high potential for sustainable development, like the ocean economy (i.e. economic activities related to the ocean).
At the 1st annual EU-African Union Ministerial meeting in 2022, ocean governance emerged as a crucial area for stronger cooperation between Africa and Europe.
Its specific objectives include
- supporting the sustainable development of natural resources and promoting good governance practices
- helping African countries meet international climate and ocean ambitions
- making sure there is enough food by developing sustainable and safe fishery and aquaculture sectors
- creating business opportunities people involved in the blue economy, in Africa and in the EU
- improving maritime security along Africa’s coast.
The EU has signed sustainable fisheries partnership agreements (SFPAs) with 15 African countries. These agreements cover the West African coast and the Indian Ocean. They help to build up scientific and fisheries surveillance capacities and support the development of blue economies locally. To support their future improvement, an assessment has been carried out.
The EU has a zero-tolerance policy towards illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing (IUU) and is working with African countries, mainly on the West coast but also in the Indian Ocean. The EU also fights IUU fishing through cooperation with the European Fisheries Control Agency which implements the EU-funded project PESCAO in West Africa and cooperation with the EU Naval Force in the Indian Ocean, with a particular focus on Somalia.
Cooperation at regional level
The EU is active in the regional fisheries management organisations off the coasts of Africa
- the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT)
- the South-East Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (SEAFO)
- the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC)
- the Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement (SIOFA)
- the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM)
These organisations set conservation and management measures, improve monitoring and control of fisheries and support the scientific work to sustainably manage the region’s fish stocks. The EU dedicates some funds to support African participation in RFMOs, ensuring the attendance of some African delegations to meetings of the Commission or scientific committees.
The EU also promotes the blue economy in the Mediterranean (WestMed Initiative) and the EU's outermost regions adjacent to the African continent. It cooperates with the Union for the Mediterranean through a dedicated working group on Sustainable Blue Economy, a Mediterranean blue economy stakeholder platform, the organisation of regular stakeholder events and the implementation of many projects.
The EU is working to improve maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, the Horn of Africa, and the Indian Ocean. A specific programme on maritime security in Africa worth €45 million was adopted in November 2023.
The European Commission has committed €184 million to support regional ocean programmes in Sub-Saharan Africa and address three challenges: improving international ocean governance, promoting a sustainable and inclusive blue economy, and conserving and restoring marine and coastal ecosystems. In November 2023, regional programmes for a total amount of €70 million were adopted for Western Africa and the Blue Benguela Current.
Many EU-funded fisheries programmes are regional because fisheries issues often cross borders and need regional solutions. See for instance: PESCAO - Improved regional fisheries governance in West Africa; , that supports fisheries and aquaculture in Africa, that covers value-chains in 9 African countries and in the Indian Ocean.
Cooperation at continental level
In 2023, based on the outcomes of a feasibility study, the European Commission set up an to help the two continents to work together on ocean issues. This group is run by the Africa-Europe Foundation and funded by the European Commission (European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund).
The EU funds development cooperation projects with developing countries in the fisheries sector. The projects focus on aquaculture, marine capture fisheries and inland capture fisheries. Overall Africa is the main recipient of EU funds for fisheries and aquaculture, receiving about €200 million.
The European Commission is working to implement the actions set out in the EU Comprehensive Strategy towards Africa and the commitments jointly taken with the African Union. It will work at bilateral, regional and continent levels.
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