The fisheries industry is one of the most potentially lucrative sectors in Mozambique. It has the capacity to generate huge income and boost the country’s economic fortunes through job creation for its under-employed population.
Over the years, however, the industry has suffered neglect by authorities who have paid little-to-no attention to harnessing its potential. Worse, this lack of attention has opened the nation up for foreign investment that often gave little consideration to the needs of local communities.
As a result, the industry’s full potential is not yet harnessed. Although Mozambique took deliberate steps to assert its authority over its fish-farming business nine years ago, this has not yielded results. The arrival of Chinese investors has virtually crushed the indigenous program.
Mozambique is home to large-scale tuna farming. This is a result of its geographic location, which borders the Indian ocean with a coastline that stretches about 1,400 miles – almost as long as as the United States’ Eastern seaboard.
The potential for tuna fish farming here cannot be overstated. In keeping with that potential, then-Mozambique President Amando Guebuza attended the ribbon cutting ceremony for a modern fishing fleet and coastal security system in 2014.
This commitment was sadly short-lived. Soon after the commissioning of an offshore patrol fleet, a tuna-fishing corporation and an operating company to begin development of a domestic shipbuilding and repair facility, Mozambique turned its back on the project.
There was no follow-up reported and the government stopped responding to contractors who delivered the ships and training to its staff. As if that was not enough, the Mozambican government then defaulted on a bond issuance used to finance what appeared to have been a sustainable, highly beneficial project.
This setback was not only a problem for Mozambique, but it cast doubt on the hopes of neighboring African governments to follow suit. Many saw the project as a replicable pilot that could lead other nations to stand up for themselves in a fishing industry long-dominated by Chinese companies.
Mozambique, like many other African countries, has huge potential in industrializing fish farming, but corruption, illegal activities and negligence are obstacles in the pursuit of effective and efficient industry oversight.
The failure of the Mozambique project put a lot of African countries in an awkward position. This is largely because licensed and illegal foreign fishing alike have triggered anger among local fishermen, as they are ejected from their own waters.
Take Somalia – Somalia is notorious for its pirates, who are feared by international vessels. The actions of these pirates began as vigilantism — communities that were defending their fishing grounds (and the livelihoods of their families) from foreigners, following the fall of the government of Siad Barre in 1991.
Generally, destructive foreign fishing off Africa’s Indian Ocean has received less media attention than that of the Atlantic. But the impact is as disastrous, if not worse.
Instead of galvanizing its potential and making fish farming a booming industry, Mozambique has been forced to import food from South Africa even though its own fishing industry could supply fish to the region and beyond as well as reduce the massive under-employment afflicting the southern African nation.