Interview with Dr Rashid Sumaila: “When Africa calls, you’ve to go”

Interview with Dr Rashid Sumaila: "When Africa calls, you've to go"

Dr. (Ussif) Rashid Sumaila is a Professor and the Director of Fisheries Economics Research Unit & the OceanCanada Partnership at the University of British Columbia (UBC)

He is the author of a forthcoming book: “Infinity Fish: Economics and the Future of Fish and Fisheries”  who specializes in bioeconomics, marine ecosystem valuation and the analysis of global issues such as fisheries subsidies, illegal fishing, climate change and oil spills. 

Dr Rashid Sumaila has vast experience working in fisheries and natural resource projects in Norway, Canada and the North Atlantic region, Namibia and the Southern African region, Ghana and the West African region and Hong Kong and the South China Sea.

Dr Rashid Sumaila won the world’s most prestigious environmental prize, the 2017 Volvo Environment Prize, and countless awards for his innovative work in fisheries economics and sustainable governance of ocean resources looking into future health and economic growth. 

As an economist and a critical thinker who has questioned conventional systems of marine governance pioneering the “fish bank” idea as a way of protecting the high seas for the world, Rashid Sumaila has spoken at the WTO, United Nations, the White House, the U.S. Congress, the European Parliament, the African Union, the British House of Lords, and the Canadian Parliament.

In an exclusive interview, we discussed matters revolving around climate change, the Covid-19 crisis, and the blue economy. In the interview, Dr Rashid Sumaila shares his wealth of knowledge.

Interview With Dr Rashid Sumaila

Ocean or sea level rises due to climate change, leads to dangerous flooding, and as a result affects the lives of people living usually at the coastal regions.

So far, how well do you think developed and developing countries are collaborating to mitigate the challenges?

The Paris Agreement was entered into

force on 4 November 2016 which was a bit of a struggle but almost all countries supported it. During the Trump administration, the US pulled out but is now back.

But after you agree, what do you do? There’s more needed actually.

Recently, I was reading. Part of the agreement was to allocate/advance a $100bn to developing countries annually to enable them adjust. And of course, we know developing countries didn’t create the problem, although contributed to it.

But so far the developed countries are not paying up as agreed, only a few have with less than committed. There you go, that’s a big warning sign. They signed the papers but don’t really do the follow-ups, and now we’re already deep in the mess.

Talking about sea level rise, the new African Centre of Excellence in Coastal Resilience at the University of Cape Coast, Ghana (ACECoR), successfully pulled me out of Vancouver, though I wasn’t available for travels as of that period in June. But when Africa calls you, you’ve to go, right?

I went on a field trip with students of ACECoR to the coast. And I heard about families that have been on the move due to sea level rise. They can’t really move far, so they go a few kilometers and get hit again. It’s terrible and we really need to work harder. The University of Cape Coast won a competition a few years back for its innovative idea to create ACECoR. The Africa Centres of Excellence are sponsored by the African Association of Universities

(AAU), and the World Bank in association with African governments”. So far 53 such centres have been created throughout the continent to study various issues of importance to Africa and the world.

I love the idea of bringing African brains to tackle global issues.

The Covid-19 crisis has greatly affected the ecosystem and we’ve seen a number of individuals in Africa looking into local fish farming to make ends meet. 

Do you think there’s a future for this industry?

I’m currently revising a paper for a journal titled: Agriculture Over Optimism. The title tells you a lot.

Looking at the economics of aquaculture, I believe it has a big role if done wisely and sustainably. 

Regarding the concept of Blue Economy, do you see it becoming globally attainable?

As usual when you say blue economy, it depends on what comes to people’s mind or what they think it is. There’s clearly no one view or definition for it.

Some see the blue economy as a way to go in there and make a lot of money as quickly as possible. They see just gold; they’re dreaming most of the time. It’s as if the ocean is just being discovered. Well, we’ve been working with the ocean for a very long time.

Another way to look at it, is to look at it from the view of the Pacific Island countries. They see it as a way to keep the ocean sustainable through time, ensuring that the benefits actually do benefit people — the local people. 

Sustainability with the people, I would say. And I think Africa should push this version of a blue economy it as well, making sure it benefits the people. Otherwise, we undermine the source of the benefits. Given our history, it seems the richer we are with natural resources, the more pain we have. 

Looking at things, we should truly be in a wonderful position by now. But people are still struggling. You look at the statistics in hand, and your heart bleeds. How do we make these resources work for Africans?

Thank you for speaking to us, Dr Rashid Sumaila


By Elijah Christopher

Elijah Christopher
Elijah Christopher is a journalist at A New Touch Of Africa, is also a creative writer, a poet, and an IT enthusiast. He contributed to the collaborative poem written in celebration of Edwin Morgan Centenary, the first Glasgow poet laureate and Scottish national poet from the University of Glasgow. He loves meeting people and learning about new places, cultures, events, and lifestyles.

Scroll to Top
X