Trade matters in the fight against poverty: narratives, perceptions, and (lack of) evidence in the case of fish trade in Africa

Two opposing views exist in the literature on the potential role that international fish trade plays in economic development. While some claim that fish trade has a pro-poor effect, others denounce the negative effect of fish export on local populations’ food security and doubt its contributions to the macro-economy. In this paper, we explore this debate in sub-Saharan Africa. Our analysis did not find any evidence of direct negative impact of fish trade on food security; neither did it find evidence that international fish trade generates positive, pro-poor outcomes. This paper discusses the possible reasons for this apparent lack of development impact and highlights the unsupported assumptions underlying the current discourse about international fish trade. We suggest that, given lack of evidence for the development benefits of fish trade between Africa and developed countries, fisheries policy could consider support for regional (Africa-to-Africa) trade that meets the growing African demand for lower-value fish. Means of overcoming barriers to intra- African trade in fish are discussed.


Béné, C., Lawton, R., Allison, E.H. (2010)
World Development 38(7): 933-954