Fishing sector: let us export more

Sunday August 19 2018


By Saumu Jumanne

That Rwanda is very aggressive in pursuing international business is not a secret. For example, Kigali has managed to get the lion’s share of international conferences that used to go to other East African cities.

Last May, Kigali was ranked by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) third continentally, as “Africa’s most popular conference and events destinations on the continent.” This was behind Cape Town of South Africa, and Casablanca of Morocco.

Our Arusha, for years known as Geneva of Africa, is the one that should have been at top three. Former US President Bill Clinton when he visited the city in August 2000, made the “Geneva of Africa” very popular catchphrase. There was a time in which almost every month there was a huge international conference in Arusha, through which they brought many visitors.

Tanzania Tourist Board managing director Devota Mdachi is on the record as saying the country, is working hard to get more share in the conference tourism which globally generates over $300 billion annually.

On another front, it’s no wonder the country has been the major fish supplier to Democratic Republic of Congo. Even when it cannot meet DRC demand for fish, Kigali imports (from Tanzania and Uganda) and re-export the same.

According to a report by the East African DRC fish market in eastern part, North and Southern Kivu, is huge with consumption of 100,000 tonnes annually.

The big question is why can’t Tanzania and Uganda penetrate DRC market directly, and make a kill in profits, that Kigali is making? How did Rwanda became DRC main supplier of fish accounting to almost 100 percent? This by all standards amounts to monopoly.

The storyline is the same, like it was in Tanzanites case until recently. Kenya and India used to be world leaders in selling the precious stones which are only available in Tanzania. This means, the precious metals would find its way into those countries without Tanzania benefiting much, as there used to be little records. It is heartening with the 5th Phase Government things have changed, and buyers have to source from Tanzania.

For years we have complained that Kenyans have been telling tourists to go to Kenya to see (climb) Mt Kilimanjaro, one of our most precious icons for our dear motherland.

But the good news is that, Tanzania of today, we are at the top as far as tourism is concerned.

Back to fish- I am thinking of all our lakes, rivers, and our part of the Indian Ocean- add all this to the potential of domestic fish farms, the opportunities are endless for us as a nation to be on the top of fish business in Africa.

A document published by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (2016) Tanzanian Fishing Sector, Challenges and Opportunities notes that Tanzania is “one of the greatest fisheries nations in Africa, ranking in the top 10 in terms of total capture and fisheries production,” but calls for social- economic and technological transformation for the sector to move to the next level.

If over 4,000,000 Tanzanians by 2016 depended on the sector (value chain) for livelihood, what if we take over the market in DRC and capture export markets all over Africa, and elsewhere? That number could simply either double or triple.

A National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) report notes “Tanzania exported a total of 39.691 million kilogrammes of fish and fish products in 2016 alone.” If we can build on this momentum, it will be songs and dances for the fishing communities. A recent study estimated that the contribution of the fishing industry can rise up from the current Sh2 trillion to Sh10 trillion annually.

The columnist is an assistant lecturer, Dar es Salaam University College of Education.