Leila Ben Hassen’s Welcome Speech at ABEF 2019.

Leila Ben Hassen’s Welcome Speech at ABEF 2019.

Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen

Good morning and welcome to Tunisia and to the second Africa Blue Economy Forum!

I am Leila Ben Hassen, the founder and organiser of ABEF and the CEO of Blue Jay Communication.

It is a great honour for me as a Tunisian to bring this forum to my home country, my home continent and to have the support of so many individuals and organisations from across Africa and the world.

Last year, the inaugural ABEF2018 raised awareness about the importance of coastal waters as an economic resource and highlighted the crises facing our seas and oceans in Africa.

A year on, ABEF 2019 looks to build on that early momentum and continue to push the significant benefits of a sustainable Blue Economy.

Individuals, businesses, civil societies and governments are increasingly aware of the issues and are taking active steps to develop the Blue Economy.

We can no longer just dip our toe in the water, we must dive in and be decisive in making and delivering change that will serve Africa for many years to come.

It is no longer business as usual. Africa must have a Sustainable Blue Business plan which will have a positive impact on the environment, on the economy and on society.

Here are some key reasons why Africa must act now and ensure the Oceans are our legacy for future generations.

  • 70% of Africa is coastal
  • 90% of Africa’s trade is conducted by sea
  • By 2050 Africa’s population will DOUBLE to 2.6 billion with 1 billion of youth
  • About 635 million Africans still live without electricity
  • It is estimated that by 2040 more than 25% of Africa’s total energy will come from a variety of clean sources
  • By 2030, the number of tourists visiting Africa will more than double to reach 150 million

As a continent there are issues that are crippling our oceans, which are having a negative impact on those three pillars of the Blue Growth: Environment, Economy and Society.

  • The cost of the plastic damage and waste to Africa
  • The cost of the illegal and over fishing
  • The impact of lack of data and access to information
  • The need for Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP)

We are not alone in this quest of raising the importance of our oceans.

We have recently celebrated the Worlds Oceans Day, whose theme was “Gender and the Ocean”- SDG14 and SDG 5, while this week it is Ocean Science Day 2019.

In Paris,scientists, decision-makers and educators will meet and discuss plans for the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030).

They will look at issues affecting our seas and explore how ocean science is key for our planet’s sustainability, and how urgent ACTION is needed, just like here in Tunisia at ABEF 2019.

That is the key word – ACTION

Over the course of the next two days, many of you will be inspired to take action or more actions, to develop a Blue Economy that works for Africa and beyond.

ABEF 2019 does have an Africa focus but it is also an international platform to push for partnership, sharing knowledge, experience and expertise.

We need the Blue Economy to be accountable and know that we are progressing. Therefore, we and our partners will explore ways to achieve this.

Before moving to our first keynote speaker, I would like to thank all the Tunisian government for its support, the local ministries, sponsors and partners of this year’s ABEF, enabling it to come to Africa.

Special thanks go to M. Karim Ben Bechr. Finally I would like to thank all our speakers for their insights, and I would like to finally thank the media who play an important role in pushing the message about the Blue Economy and its importance to this beautiful continent.

The health of our oceans is in our hands and our oceans are our legacy.

I hope you all enjoy the conference.

Thank you­­­­­­­