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Friday, June 16, 2017

16/06/2017: The Aquafeed interview - Alpha Condé, President of Guinea, President of the African Union

 President Alpha Condê, born March 4, 1938, has been President of Guinea since December 2010, and on January 30, 2017, President Condé succeeded Chad’s Irdiss Deby as the President of the African Union. President Condé was born in Boké in Lower Guinea, where he left when he was 15 to go to France. 

 Whilst he was in France he was active in parallel within the National Union of Higher Education and combined the functions of the Association of Guinean students in France and the Federation of Black African Students in France, in which he was the Executive Coordinator of African National Groups from 1967-75.

 He wrote a master’s thesis in Political Science entitled, ‘Le P.D.G. et le people de Guinée’ in 1965.
Regarding his appointment as the African Union chairperson, he was elected during the ongoing 28th Ordinary Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia following the end of Deby’s term in January 2017.

 What are the projections of the increase in the population of Guinea and how is the Government making progress in supplying its population with healthy and affordable food?
 The growth rate of the Guinean population is 2.9 percent per year. With this growth rate, the Guinean population could exceed 15 million inhabitants by 2040. The proportion of the working-age population (15-64), increased from 49.9 percent in 1996 to 51.3 percent in 2014. The growth rate of the economic support ratio, which had been negative since the 1950s, has become positive (0.2%) since 2007. This indicates the opening of the window of the first demographic dividend of Guinea. This demographic dividend could reach its maximum level from 2035 if adequate population policies are implemented, this according to the National Plan for Economic and Social Development 2016-2020 (PNDES), Volume 1.

 The National Plan for Economic and Social Development 2016-2020 is an integrating plan for the different strategic or programmatic development frameworks that are in progress or planned for future implementation. The PNDES takes the main regional and international agendas into account in particular, the ECOWAS Vision 2020, the African Union Vision 2063 for a structural transformation of the continent and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

 Does your Government recognise the importance of scientific production of genetically modified organs as a means of improving the production of animal protein?
 In general, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are considered to be of great value to production. The introduction of GMOs into aquaculture makes it possible to increase the production of animal proteins that developing countries need. GMOs can also improve the quality of aquatic products, reduce production costs, improve micronutrients and improve the nutritional composition of products, increase disease resistance and contribute to food security. There are, however, many controversies surrounding the introduction of GMOs into aquaculture production systems. Of these, we can note that transgenic aquatic species can change their metabolism and that of other species. They can also spread rapidly to the point of threatening non-transgenic species, thus disrupting the environments in which they are allowed to evolve. Some research has shown that crossbreeding between transgenic and unmodified species has produced less viable species.

 In view of these problems and threats, it becomes clear that the use of GMOs requires, in addition to the technical aspect, very clear legal and regulatory provisions and strong monitoring and control. The role of research and technicians is very important in guiding policies on GMOs, which will have to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

 What is the place of aquaculture in the food structure offered to its population?
 The economic, social and cultural development of aquaculture is considered in the Republic of Guinea, a water tower in West Africa, as a strong alternative to the regular supply of the proteins of animal origin. Aquaculture development is considered as an opportunity to contribute to food security, job creation and the fight against poverty.

 In order to improve the fisheries and aquaculture in Guinea, we organised a comprehensive assessment of the sector to critically evaluate past policies. As a logical follow-up to this assessment, corrective measures have been proposed and are likely to help improve the situation of aquaculture development. Among these measures, the assessment results stressed the need to initiate institutional and regulatory reform. This resulted in the creation of a National Aquaculture Agency to coordinate and monitor all the activities, programs and projects affecting this sector.

 We wish to establish fruitful partnerships with other countries that have succeeded in the rational management of this activity in order to prepare the future in the longer term by laying the foundations for sound and sustainable management of aquaculture by motivated, competent, honest and responsible operators, which will enable Guinea to derive all the benefits it can hope for. That is to increase national aquaculture production in order to contribute to economic growth, food security, poverty alleviation, job creation and income enhancement while preserving the environment.

Some activities currently carried out in this sector, include: Fish farming in Guinea “Forestiere”. We plan to develop this operation into a semi-intensive fish farm that is integrated into agricultural activities (fish farming associated with rice cultivation, poultry, swine, or small ruminant production). We expect to be able to produce low-cost fish that will be available to low-income families, to diversify farmers’ production and to improve their incomes, shrimp farming, oyster farming, and marine fish farming in Lower Guinea. Continental fish farming in ponds and water reservoirs in Upper Guinea, fish farming in the floodplains in Middle Guinea and the operation of reservoirs of hydro-agricultural and hydro-electric dams.

 As a newly elected President of the African Union (AU), do you see production and food processing as a priority to address the needs of Africans across the continent?
 Autonomy and food independence are one of the primary objectives assigned to the AU. In 2014, in Equatorial Guinea, the Heads of State of the continent adopted the Malabo Declaration on accelerated growth and transformation of agriculture in Africa for shared prosperity and better living conditions. Through this Declaration, we have made a commitment to eliminate hunger in Africa by 2025. We have also committed to improving the nutritional status of our populations, in particular to eliminate malnutrition, to reduce stunting by 10 percent and those that are underweight by 5 percent by 2025. 

 These priorities will be achieved by: (i) doubling agricultural productivity; (ii) halving the current levels of post-harvest losses; and (iii) integrating measures to increase agricultural productivity with social protection initiatives that are directed at vulnerable social groups by committing budget lines in our national budgets.

 In the case of Guinea, these commitments made by my Government at the continental level coincided with the revision of the national agricultural development policy, which ended in 2015. In the development of our new agricultural policy, these provisions are being included in a strategic plan that is accompanied by a targeted roadmap for my country.

 In Malabo in 2014 we also adopted the Policy Framework and Reform Strategy for fisheries and aquaculture in Africa, which focuses on accelerating the growth of aquaculture at the continental level in Africa.

 As the newly elected President of the AU, I am working with my colleagues to support the implementation of Malabo’s commitments and in this regard, the AU Summit of Heads of State and Government to be held in January 2018 is dedicated to monitoring the implementation of the commitments to demonstrate mutual accountability in the actions and outcomes of the implementation of the Malabo Declaration.

 Does aquaculture and seafood play a role in meeting the food needs of the growing African population?
 At the continental level, we are promoting aquaculture development by addressing three main factors: (i) increasing the demand for fish by our populations, (ii) improving the environment for investment; and (iii) reducing production risk. The growing middle-class population and the increase in the peri-urban population, combined with the economic development of the continent, have led to an increasing demand for fish. As most of our marine resources are overexploited, this increase in fish supply can be attributed to the emerging development of aquaculture. This situation confirms that the rational and judicious exploitation of aquaculture potential is the most appropriate way of supplying animal protein to populations. The density of the hydrographic network, water reservoirs (lakes, agricultural Hydro) offers immense prospects for aquaculture development.

 What are your priorities in addition to developing healthy, abundant and affordable food production?
 To maintain good economic growth in the years to come, we have identified eight priorities that have a direct impact on the well being of our people, the lives and livelihoods of our citizens in all areas of life.
These priorities are:
1.    The development of human capital by giving priority to health, education, science, research, technology and innovation.
2.    Development of agriculture and processing of agricultural products
3.    Promoting inclusive economic development through industrialisation, infrastructure development, agriculture, trade and investment.
4.    Peace, stability and good governance.
5.    The integration of women and youth in all activities of the African Union.
6.    Mobilisation of resources.
7.    The building of a union of peoples through active communication and promotion of the Union’s image.
8.    Strengthening the institutional capacity of all decision-making bodies, because in the areas of aquaculture, we have the Policy Framework and Reform Strategy of the Africa Union that sets the goal of the continent to Jumpstart market-led sustainable aquaculture through a variety of strategies. Where appropriate, we support interventionist development approaches in aquaculture by strong strategic and implementation plans. 

 This will require: (i) Creating an enabling environment; (ii) Creating an African Centre of Excellence for Aquaculture (iii) Mainstreaming strategies and plans into national development plans especially the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).

 The theme of the African Union this year is: “Reaping demographic dividends by investing in youth”. What are your other priorities and why?
 The development of the agricultural sector is the main lever of African development. The main lever of the development of Guinea is agro-industry. The mines can certainly be one of the levers, but not leverage. We are not in control of commodity prices whose prices are set in London, Washington or Montreal.

 Africa needs to be more innovative, more productive and more competitive to succeed in its ‘emergence’. That is why we have initiated reforms at the level of the African Union (AU) to improve its functioning and to promote its evolution. Africa advances and is heard when it is united and speaks with one voice. Thus, each of the major challenges it faces, agriculture, energy, conflicts, immigration, trade, etc. was entrusted to one of our heads of state. Similarly, in order to be in line with our legitimate ambitions of independence in recent months, an institutional reform project of the AU led by Rwandan President Paul Kagame plans to use 0.2 percent of imports to finance the pan-African body.

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