Illegal logging, fishing and trade in wildlife inflicts a $29 billion cost on African economies every year, a new report by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), Ghana has said.
Dubbed ‘Africa Is Not Poor, We Are Stealing Its Wealth’, the report said: “There are also more indirect means by which we pull wealth out of Africa. It is estimated that $29 billion a year is being stolen from Africa in illegal logging, fishing and trade in wildlife.”
It adds that: “As high as $36 billion is owed to Africa as a result of the damage that climate change will cause to societies and economies as they are unable to use fossil fuels to develop in the way that Europe did. Our climate crisis was not caused by Africa, but Africa will feel the effect more than others. Needless to say, the funds are not currently forthcoming.”
The Accra-based policy think tank and economic advocacy also stated that, to curb the situation, African countries must not be forced to open up their economies to unfair competition.
“The first task is to stop perpetuating the harm they are doing. African governments need to open up their economies to privatisation, but not their markets to unfair competition,” it advocated.
Activities of illegal trade, especially in fishing, has gained much traction recently as various reports and studies continue to raise serious concerns about its debilitating effects on economies of African countries.
For instance, a recent Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) research, indicates that the fisheries sector is of strategic importance to many African countries, but remains vulnerable to a wide range of tax crimes and other transgressions–including money laundering, corruption, drugs and arms smuggling.
Ghana’s depleting fish and forests
Global losses due to illegal unreported and unregulated fishing alone are estimated to be as high as $23.5 billion per year with West Africa waters, including Ghana deemed to have the highest levels of IUU fishing in the world, representing up to 37 percent of the region’s catch.
Also, a recent study by Frontiers in Marine Science states that, the West Africa region (coastal countries) loses an estimated $2.3 billion annually to illegal fishing.
In Ghana, more than 10 percent of the country’s 28 million population are said to be engaged in the fisheries sector, the greater part of the people dependent on fisheries are artisanal fisher-folks and fishmongers, according to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture.
On illegal logging, a research by the Tropical Forest Alliance (TFA) 2020, found that due to excessive deforestation, Ghana’s forest cover has dwindled from a high of 8.4 million hectares to as low as 1.8 million hectares.
This, according to the research means a total of $236 million is needed over a period of five years to increase the country’s forest cover from the paltry 1.8 million hectares to a healthy 5.9 million hectares.
The data show that between 1990 and 2000, Ghana lost an average of 135,000 hectares per annum and current deforestation rate is estimated to be between 3.2 percent per annum.
The Domestic Lumber Trade Association (DOLTA) has constantly expressed worry over overexploitation of the country’s forests as about 90 percent of wood produced domestically is substandard.
Efforts to curb the menace
One of the measures taken to fight IUU is the establishment of the Agreement on Port State Measures (PSMA) which came into force in 2016.
The PSMA is complemented by a suite of other instruments such as the FAO Voluntary Guidelines for Flag State Performance adopted in 2014 and the FAO Voluntary Guidelines on Catch Documentation Schemes adopted in 2017 to provide better and more harmonized traceability of fish along the value chain.
The PSMA is the first binding international agreement that specifically targets illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. So far 54 states and the European Union have become Parties to the Agreement and many have already started implementing the provisions.
On illegal logging, the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) was established in 2003 with the aim of reducing illegal logging by strengthening sustainable and legal forest management, improving governance and promoting trade in legally produced timber.
Government has said it is ready to implement the FLEGT as plans are now advanced to commerce and test the licensing regime this year.