Article Index

5. Globalisation and the marginalisation of local entrepreneurs, both men and women

If globalisation is about market expansion, it is a process that has begun to affect West African fisheries - including the artisanal sub-sector - for several decades. Indeed, foreign investors have been around for some time. These have always developed penetration strategies for this sub-sector taking into account local contexts, but also adapting the sub-sector to their needs. This is illustrated by some of these strategies which have already been in place (i) introduction of fishing gear through the fishmongers for the artisanal sub-sector of cephalopods by the Japanese (ii) acquisition of own production units / pirogues from exporting processing plants to avoid supply disruptions; (iii) use of the skills / abilities of fishing communities for recruiting fishers on deep-sea purse seiners and pole-and-line vessels; also oceanic fishing for yellowfin tuna in the Indian Ocean, etc.

Chinese shop - no-go for localsThus, Guinea as an integral part of this ecoregion can not be spared by this phenomenon. But though globalisation is not a recent phenomenon, these promoters are in perpetual search for strategies to ensure a regular supply of products, whatever the local impact this could provoke. Indeed, the multiple visits in this site during the last five years allow to get a strong sense of the growing influence of globalisation of the markets on the artisanal fisheries and on the communities which depend on them. Among these facts, the most striking are:

  1. A new strategy of Korean investors consists of owning their own artisanal fishing units and recruit labour among artisanal fishers. They target Law croaker and Senegalese tonguesole for export. The catches are landed at the port of Boulbinet: croaker and tonguesole for export and the rest of accidental catches known as "African fish" marketed to women micro-fish sellers and smokers (including catfish);

  2. A sub-sector set up recently called "advanced artisanal fishing" was initiated by the Chinese and is in full swing. It uses small wooden boats with inbord engines the parts of which are prefabricated in Thailand and assembled in Guinea. On board these small boats about ten artisanal fishers are recruited with a Chinese supervisor boarded to control the fishing operations. The specificity of this sub-sector is that landings are made at the Autonomous Port of Conakry where the Chinese have set up cold stores where the croaker and tonguesole are packaged for export. This makes it more difficult to ensure the traceability of products and to know the quantities taken. The rest, the "African fish", is marketed in the large urban market of Conakry called KENIE by the Chinese who use women as recruited agents. It is from this market that many women - who used to source their goods fresh from the port of Boulbinet - buy the raw material. These are housewives, caterers and processors.

  3. There is another category of Chinese operators, who, contrary to the two previous groups do not own vessels, but rather concentrate on collecting fresh produce directly from artisanal fishers with the help of fish mongers. They are only interested in croaker, which they export through their circuits kept secret. There as well is a problem of product traceability.

  4. A closed Chinese house in Boulbinet-Kaloum On the way to Chinatown? Beyond the physical presence of these Asians in the artisanal fishery illustrating how globalisation is a process that goes fast and far (where one did not expect it only a few years back), there is another highlight showing the influence of globalisation on the fishing communities in Guinea. This is the process of settling the Chinese in one of the most traditional neighborhoods of Conakry, Kaloum. Boulbinet is an integral part of Kaloum and a stone's throw away from the port of Boulbinet. There are now food shops, restaurants and massage areas with the appearance of brothels, all reserved exclusively for Chinese, where the attempt of the author to make a purchase has been rejected repeatedly. The most extraordinary thing is the closed nature of these places reserved for the Chinese all the while being located in the centre of this popular district.

  5. Lebanese operators: just sport fishermen? Commercial artisanal fisher boat owners and / or fishmongers exporters?
    If the settlements of the Asian operators described above indicate profound changes in the trajectory of Guinean artisanal fisheries, the activities of the Lebanese is another illustration of ongoing changes. Since about four to five years, we are seeing the arrival of increasing numbers of Lebanese. Their specificity lies in the fact that (i) a good number of them hold their own fishing unit and (ii) they own or control all fish shops through which they sell high value species intended mainly for export: Europe, Africa too. At the request of their customers, products can be packaged in fresh polystyrene boxes. In a short period of time, the number of these fishmongers increased in the district of Kaloum / Boulbinet. One of the rather intriguing aspects of this sector is that these operators declare themselves as "practising sport fishing" despite the commercial nature of their activities.