BOTTOM LINE : Does Africa deserve to import fish from China, really?

Wednesday February 28 2018

Nkwazi Mhango is a Tanzanian writer based in

Nkwazi Mhango is a Tanzanian writer based in Canada 

By Nkwazi Mhango

There is a joke that one Chinese reared two cows whose capacity to produce milk was ten litres a piece. The joke goes on noting that this Chinese genetically manipulated one bovine so as to produce 100 litres he sold to non-Chinese as he sold the milk of the cow that’s not manipulated to his compatriots. The upshot here is that when it comes to patriotism, Chinese are good at it.

This joke brings us to the story that the Daily Nation (28 January 2018) carried titled “Kenya imports fish from China to meet high demand: CS Adan.” When I read that story I was flabbergasted and shocked as to how the country of Lake Nyanza could do this. When I was pondering on this story to which I didn’t have the chops for, I got the answer that currently, some African countries have allowed foreign countries to invest in food production through land acquisition as hunger is increasing tempo among their citizens while their soil is used to feed others.

So, too, instead of developing industries in Africa, some African countries are now depending on importing the same products they are able to produce at home. This speaks to the fact that after failing to invest in and improving fishing in the Indian Ocean and Lake Nyanza, Kenya is now importing fish from China. While this is ongoing, many Africans are dying of either malnutrition or hunger not to mention poisoning from imported foods like fish, simply because they are unable to produce sufficient food for themselves.

The Daily Nation quoted Industrialisation and Enterprise Development CS Adan Mohamed as saying that “lack of fish feeds is a key bottleneck. Tilapia is being imported today. We don’t necessarily ban imports but we make sure that imports that are coming to our country pay the necessary duties and levies.” Tilapia or Oreochromis niloticus, a type of fish abundantly found in Lake Nyanza, is now imported from China where it is produced in farms; and are genetically manipulated not to mention that many may have streptococci which cause pink eye, meningitis, bacterial pneumonia, endocarditis, erysipelas, and necrotizing fasciitis. There is evidence that Tilapia farming in China is not driven by any other reasons but profits which is detrimental to health of the consumers. As you can see, the priority for the government of Kenya is nothing but money but not quality. The CS does not mention anything about health, safety and quality but only money.

While Kenya is thumbs up about importing fish from China, the US is a wee bit cagey. For example the CBC 28 June 2007 quoted Dr. David Acheson, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s assistant commissioner for food protection as saying that “the FDA is not allowing the import of these Chinese farmed seafood products until the importers can prove that the seafood is free from harmful contaminants.” This is eleven year down the line. Did Kenya consider such realities?

Sometimes, I wonder. I don’t know what is wrong with the East African Community. Kenya is not alone in importing fish from China. The (4January, 2018) carried the story titled “Tanzania Imports 2,000 Tonnes of Mackerel Fish From China”. It went on noting that “the local companies of the state have settled for imported fish from China. Reports suggest that 2,000 tonnes of mackerel fish enter the African country monthly from the Asian country.” As it is for Kenya, Tanzania is the host of Lake Nyanza and many rivers not to mention having a big chunk of the Indian Ocean. Again, what’s wrong with these countries? There are many explanations. Just imagine. The country such as Kenya with many landless people still has the guts of leasing its land to Middle Eastern countries to produce food for their people while many Kenyans face acute shortage of food. Why doesn’t such a country produce the needed food and sell it to the countries to which it consents to invest in food production? While such a sacrilege is ongoing, the Guardian (3 December, 2010) reports that food production is actually 10% lower today than in 1960, yet over this time period the aggregate world food production has increased by 145%. The Guardian adds that there is renewed interest from around the world is self-interest wherein foreign countries are eyeing Africa as a source of food, which is prompting an unprecedented rush to buy or lease land. While this maniac is ongoing, many Africans are either dying of malnutrition or hunger. Who bewitched Africa? Where will this love-cum-madness for cheap and simple solution lead us to? Asia is the continent with many hungry people. It is not deservedly to feed Africa whose population is only one-third of Asia’s population.


To do away with importing food and leasing our land for foreign food production, our governments need to embark on industrial revolution. Shall they fail, they must let other competent ones to slink in and liberate Africa from this shame resulting from internal colonisation presided over by black colonisers.