In Africa, women have always played an important role in the fisheries and aquaculture sector, be it in production or marketing of the fish landed or produced through aquaculture. Lately African women have started to express their potential into value addition and innovations in the sector. A brief on three such exceptional women follows.
Kasazi (Kay) studied at the University of Namibia (2003) in Windhoek and graduated with a degree in Business Administration and Management. In 2014 in collaboration with a group of women involved in fish trade, Kay undertake to add value and innovate by producing new fish products.The group known as the Kafue Women’s Fish Processing Association (KWFPA) produces fish sausages, fish crackers, fish samosas and mini pies amongst others. Furthermore, the group is involved in sensitizing local women, schools and customers at the mini markets on the nutritional value of fish and its health benefits. Kay won the 1st prize at the SmartFish Award in February 2016 and the Zambia Women of the Year award in March 2016. She is now set on expanding her business and exports her products to other areas within the continent from her home base in Zambia.
The Kikundi Charity Association established in 2012 produces ready to eat Dagaa and they are based in Mwanza, Tanzania. Sophia, the Secretary of the association talks of the hard work put in by the 20 women members of the association. In 2015, they sought and obtained assistance from SmartFish to construct and equip a small processing unit. The building works are nearly completed. Some of the members followed a training course in fish processing and value addition. The main market for the ready to eat Dagaa is the local market and some outlets in Mwanza and Dar es Salam. The association is on the look out for an export market for their products. In 2015, the association won a SmartFish award for quality improvement for their products. According to Sophia, the main constraints seem to be the transportation costs, costly packaging and labels, high interest rates, bureaucracy, lack of physical infrastructure and business incubators. The product is excellent, however the packaging and labeling would need to be revisited if the association is contemplating exports outside Tanzania.
Kati Farms Uganda Ltd is another success story due to the determination and hard work of Lovin Kobusingye. She set up Kati Farms in 2011 and convinced aquaculture farmers to work with her to produce catfish for her processing plant. She started operations on a small scale, but due to the huge demand she expanded business and spent time and money to train her personnel and farmers. Her expansion plan is still ongoing. In 2011, Catfish farmers had difficulties with the marketing of their fresh fish and Lovin saw the opportunity and set out her fish-processing unit to produce fish sausage and samosas. She outsources her small scale farmers raw material i.e fresh fish from the small farmers. So far she has 1,037 farmers working in close collaboration with her and she is still on the look out for new farmers. Lovin started her business with a capital of US$ 800 and her farm is today valued at US$ 400,000. She provides employment directly or indirectly to some 500 people.She presently markets her products (fish sausage, samosas, fresh fillets, powders and other snacks) in Uganda and other neighbouring countries. Her main clients are the hotels, supermarkets and restaurants. Lovin was awarded the EMRC-Rabobank project incubator award in 2012, receiving US$ 15,000, which she reinvested in her business. She also won the Rising Star Award of the Ugandan Women Entrepreneur Association in 2012.
The major constraints faced by these women may be summarized as follows:
- Obtaining the necessary financing to start their businesses and for expansion.
- Lack of information and support from the local authorities initially.
- Mentoring during the initial phases of their projects.
- Bureaucracy including delays in the processing of permits and licenses.
The main lesson learnt is that through hard work and support from the authorities and other concerned stakeholders, women can pave the way for innovations along the value chain, develop new product and move into marketing of their products. However, access to financing remains one of the main huddles for further development of the small-scale sector.
It has not been easy, but these three exceptional women have shown determination worked hard to achieve their dreams. Now they are all set to conquer the African market with their fish products.