You would not quite believe it if you haven’t seen it, but as African business blogger I have come across the most amazing ways in which entrepreneurs are building their own ponds, engaging in fish farming and making great profits. You will find ponds in the backyard (where the entrepreneur’s mum used to put up her washing to dry), small ponds between banana trees, huge fish tanks inside shipping containers (yep, that’s correct), and net constructions at the edges of lakes. So if you think fish farming business in Africa has something to do with getting in a boat, think again!
Fish is one of the commonest and cheapest sources of protein for Africans. Fish caught by fishermen in the rivers and coastal waters, supported by imported marine fisheries from Europe and Asia, have been the traditional sources of fish to the continent’s markets. However, the decreasing fish stocks in rivers and oceans across the world (due to global warming and environmental pollution) have severely affected fish supplies. As supply is unable to keep pace with the demand of an exploding African population, fish has continued to attract higher prices in African markets.
In an attempt to close the gap between demand and supply, fish farming, or aquaculture, is a growing practice that is helping to shore up fish supply even in areas away from oceans and lakes.
According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), fish farming currently accounts for more than 30 percent of the global fish supply; of which Africa as a whole contributes less than 2 percent. The most abundantly farmed fish are freshwater fish such as tilapia, catfish and carp. Dried and smoked fish are also popular in many parts of the continent for_their distinctive flavour in soups, stews and sauces.
To excel in this business, you need to be aware of various fish farming options that are really available to you; which one you choose will depend on your location and circumstances. Contrary to common belief, you don’t need to have access to the sea or a lake to start a successful business in fish farming. If you own some land, you can dig a fish pond into the soil. If you have a backyard at your house you can build a fish pond right there (it’s a growing trend in Nigeria), and some South African entrepreneurs in Cape Town even made headlines at the end of 2013 by setting up a shipping container fish farm in the middle of the city.
Fish farming is actively promoted by a rising number of African countries, which will create an enabling policy environment for your business. Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana, and Zambia are among the countries actively promoting fish farming. Angola, Namibia, and Cameroon have also extended efforts to attract more fish farming business into the country. But really, fish farming is one of the few ventures that you are able to successfully run and grow almost anywhere across the African continent.
Action & Tips
- Your fish business will be more profitable if you add value through processing techniques. Find your niche market in doing so; for example, focus on selling smoked fish for export or produce frozen fish fingers for Africa’s rapidly growing middle class and fast food chains.
- View one of the many YouTube videos on fish farming businesses in Africa to learn and inspire yourself. Some of the clips provide insights into financial gains and farming techniques.
- Warning: There is a new fish farming hype in some countries, which reportedly includes some scams. Be sure not to simply give your money away – fish farming is a business that you should study, understand, and carefully manage to become successful.