Norwegian investors angle for slice of Kenya’s growing aquaculture industry

A few years ago, fish farming was seen as a traditional practice that was the preserve of communities living near the country’s lakes and coastal strip.

Now, however, a change in lifestyle has seen more communities embrace eating fish, and the Government’s strategic positioning of aquaculture as a viable economic activity has increased both its demand and production.

The turning point came in 2009 when the Government launched an economic stimulus plan that identified fish farming as a key contributor to gross domestic product (GDP).

Foreign investors, mostly from Norway, have now taken notice of the potential in the sector.

Norway has a highly developed aquaculture industry, from breeding to harvesting of fish, to value addition and marketing, and the country is looking to export its model to Kenya, and the larger East Africa region.

“Today, our technological solutions are preferred by fish farmers all over the world, from Vietnam and South Korea, to Brazil and South Africa,” said Anita Krohn Traaseth, the CEO of Innovation Norway, a government agency established to promote the development of Norwegian enterprises in international markets.

At a recent Norway Business Forum held in Nairobi, aquaculture as a growth business was emphasised, with several presentations highlighting success stories.

Norway, for instance, has developed aquaculture into a major industry in its coastal areas. This has seen it export 95 per cent of its aquaculture products, with the European Union being the country’s main market.

Economic investments

In 2012, Norwegian aquaculture production amounted to approximately1.3 million tonnes, 99 per cent of which was Atlantic salmon and trout.

With the sector becoming a major contributor to economic growth, Norway has been working on identifying opportunities for its aquaculture solutions since the beginning of last year.

Firms from the Scandinavian country are already exploring off-shore cage farming in Kenya, which is expected pick up pace on the back of the Government-sponsored establishment of small-scale fish ponds across the country.

Fisheries Principal Secretary Micheni Ntiba added that the Government has a robust strategic plan for aquaculture development.

“There are many things that need to be done in Kenya to upscale aquaculture development, and we invite our Norwegian partners to put their resources into this sector,” he said.

Prof Ntiba added that such partnerships would go a long way towards making positive economic investments in what has come to be called the blue economy, which looks to shift society from scarcity to abundance with what is locally available by tackling issues that cause environmental and related problems in new ways.

John Ponsonby, the director of financial advisory/corporate finance at Deloitte, further noted that in Kenya, the consumption of fish outstrips production, thus providing opportunities for investment to bridge the gap and feed growing populations.

Ms Traaseth added that the right technology is important to make aquaculture productive and sustainable, and Norway is more advanced on this.

“Farmers need to be focused on the one species they want to grow, and understand the technology needed for fish management and marketing,” she said.

The Norwegian business forum also highlighted issues the sector faces, noting that increased funding is especially needed for research institutions like the National Council for Science and Technology, Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute and universities.

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Fisheries Principal Secretary Micheni NtibaEuropean UnionInnovation Norway