Rents, Rights and Restructuring: Namibia’s Lessons for the Governance of Africa’s Fisheries

Image: Flickr, JH-NA070905_0179 World Bank
Image: Flickr, JH-NA070905_0179 World Bank

Namibia is often cited as an example of an African country that has achieved relative success in managing its marine resources and promoting local ownership in the fisheries sector. This paper draws out key lessons from Namibia’s fisheries governance experience, highlighting not only successes but also a range of challenges facing the country.

Namibia has forfeited a portion of the rents produced in the fisheries sector in order to incentivise local ownership and job creation through its Namibianisation policies. However, the depth of reform in ownership patterns has been questioned. The country’s fish stocks were heavily overfished in the pre-independence period and this may have contributed to key and lasting shifts in the marine ecosystem. The fisheries sector remains a key component of the Namibian economy but, just like many other African states, the country faces difficult choices in balancing demands for growth, sustainability and equity.

While recognising that Namibia’s fisheries system differs in important ways from those of many other African coastal states, this paper argues that the key lessons emerging from Namibia’s experience are directly relevant to these countries. These lessons include the need for strong political leadership to address illegal fishing activities, the importance of developing an effective system to capture rents generated by fisheries, and the need to ensure that the exploitation of fisheries resources has a direct developmental impact on the national economy.

16 Dec 2014