For a long time, fish farming has flown under the radar of other investment opportunities in Africa. Africa depends on water bodies for a significant percentage of its fish. This, plus climate change, has caused a continued reduction of fish populations in their natural ecosystem. Entrepreneurial Africans are moving in to curb this deficit through fish farming in fish ponds. This is a great opportunity not only for Africans on the continent but also those in the diaspora.
Rising demand for fish
African countries are putting in place regulations to curb overfishing. This move is aimed at increasing fish populations. While such regulations help to conserve fisheries, they also raise the demand for fish. According to FAO Sub-Saharan African countries consume 8.9kgs of fish per capita, while the average consumption rate of the world stands at 18.9kgs per capita. These figures point to a potential sharp increase in demand for fish in Africa.
The demand for fish has also been increased by health experts’ position that fish is a healthier alternative to red meat. Apart from protein and vitamins, fish contains Omega 3 fatty acids which are good for the heart.
Increasing purchasing power in Africa
According to a report by Deloitte, more Africans are joining the middle class. The increasing purchasing power in Africa is another reason for optimism to those practicing fish farming in Africa. The rise of consumerism in Africa has led to Africans enjoying a wider variety of foods to choose from.
High profitability in fish farming
Tilapia is the most consumed variety of fish in Africa followed by Nile Perch. A farmer with an interest in fish farming in Africa should consider these two varieties. Fish farming has two revenue streams. The first is rearing fingerlings to fish for sale to consumers. The second stream is breading fingerlings and then selling them to other farmers or institutions.
Fish raised in fish ponds take 6-8 months to reach 500g to 600g, which is the recommended weight for sale. The average price for a kilogram of fish in Africa is $3-4. A fish pond measuring 800 meters square can accommodate 5000 fish. A farmer can thus make up to $8000 in a single fish harvest.
Breeding fish eggs into fingerlings is a delicate yet lucrative process. Female Tilapia lay eggs that are not fertilized. The male Tilapia then fertilizes the eggs after which the female scoops them up into her mouth for brooding. With a laying population of 100 Tilapia, a farmer is able to incubate up to 50,000 eggs in conservative estimates. Tilapia is a prolific breeder so most of these eggs will hatch into fingerlings.
When the eggs hatch, the farmer could sell them for $15 cents. To profit from fingerlings, a farmer needs to construct a hatchery for optimum production of fingerlings. A female tilapia can produce between 500 and 1000 eggs per spawning.
But all is not rosy: The China problem
The demand for fish in Africa is greater than what is produced on the continent. China has stepped in and is now exporting fish to some African countries. Fish imports from China are being sold at a cheaper price than locally produced fish.
Safety concerns have also been raised over fish from China. The University of Nairobi released findings that proved the fish imports from China were contaminated with mercury, copper, and lead. Africans should strive to produce their own fish in a manner that is safe for the consumers.
Fish farming in Africa is now receiving support from African governments and NGOs. Farm Africa, an NGO, has set up offices in Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, DR Congo, and Tanzania. One of its mandates is to increase the uptake of general aquaculture in Africa. Farm Africa offers fish farmers training on best practices in fish farming. It also provides a market for fish farmers.
Africa is gradually recognizing fish farming as a key pillar for food security and affordable nutrition. Through the Fish Farming Enterprise Productivity Program, Kenya has embarked on strengthening fish farming among its population. Kenya, like most African states, has vast natural resources and conditions suitable for fish farming. This program has been providing farmers with great incentives like free fish feeds, fingerlings, and construction of fish ponds.