Giving global focus on Africa’s maritime resources.
The value of our oceans is estimated to be $2.5 trillion per year (equivalent to the world’s 7th largest economy) and currently accounts for 3.5% of the global economy. It is continuously growing and fast for that matter.
Fisheries sector alone saw a 167% increase in global employment, between 1980 and 2008. However, as the human population expands toward an expected 10 billion, increasing pressures on the ocean have continued to threaten the ability of our oceans to provide resources and essential economic opportunities for global development.
It is against background and in line with the African Union’s Integrated Maritime Strategy, (AIMS 2050), that a team of maritime reporters drawn from across Africa came together to create an online blue economy information platform, known as “The Blue Economy Newsmagazine” online, with the sole objective of giving global focus on Africa’s rich but unexploited maritime resources through effective reportage of economic activities in the emerging blue sector across the continent.
In order to ensure a healthy, productive ocean that could meet growing global demands, countries must find a way of sustainably managing their marine environments through proper policy regimes in safeguarding national coastlines, marine waters for the overall preservation and use of the rich biodiversity in the continent.
This is because investing strongly and wisely in the emerging Blue Economy is the potential transformation key that will eventually open the doors to Africa’s new frontier to her renaissance.
First of all, what do we mean by “Blue Economy”? The concept of a Blue Economy provides an approach to better understand and access untapped potentials embedded in the oceans which offer significant economic and investment opportunities for economic growth from healthy oceans that have largely been under-utilized.
Sadly, tools to manage marine resources are less developed just as the knowledge gap is far greater than in comparison to terrestrial systems with a longer history of conservation management.
Improved ocean governance frameworks are needed to appropriately address the issues of sustainability and to support the growth of Africa’s emerging sustainable Blue Economy.
The Blue Economy must be properly understood in its broadest sense, not just to extract as much economic benefits from the ocean as possible, but to also recognize the underlying socio-ecological implications inherent in the anticipated exploration and exploitation of the ocean economies in the black continent.
Therefore, addressing the obvious challenges will allow the Blue Economy to continue its momentum as a positive global economic driver and cornerstone for supporting sustainable global development particularly for developing economies.
It would be recalled that while a green economy was generally marked by effective use of natural resources, the definition of a blue economy as one based mainly on healthy marine resources also surfaced.
Thomas and Pet Soede noted how, at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) Rio+20 Summit in June 2012, small island developing countries whose economies depended largely on marine resources highlighted the role of the sea.
“Pacific small island developing states advocated that for them, a green economy was in fact, a blue economy, because of the importance of oceans and fisheries to their livelihoods,” wrote Thomas and Pet Soede.
Africa’s inland waters, oceans and seas are under pressure. Over the years, traditional maritime activities, such as shipping or fisheries have intensified, while new ones, such as aquaculture, mariculture or offshore renewable energy have emerged.
However, the rise in intensity of activities at sea within the continent is taking place against the backdrop of insecurity, coupled with ongoing various forms of illegal trafficking, degradation of the marine environment and falling biodiversity in the face of aggravated effects of climate change.
In the past decades direct aggregate losses of revenue from illegal activities in Africa’s Maritime Domain (AMD) amounted to hundreds of billions of US dollars, not to mention the loss of lives that daily occur at sea.
The development agenda of the African Union (AU), AIM Strategy 2050 and Agenda 2063, among others, promote, among other things, human capital development and improved standard of living.
These development plans are inclusive and based on a human-centered approach to development where all social groups are engaged.
The development strategies anticipate an Africa, using its own resources to take its rightful place in a multi-polar, inter-reliant and more equitable world.
In the maritime domain of Africa, the wide variety of related activities are inter-related to some extent, and all have potential impact on the prosperity derivative through their contributions to social, economic and political stability, and safety and security.
Notably therefore, the approach to regulation and management of maritime issues and resources cannot be confined to a few select sectors or industries.
Therefore, in developing the 2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime (AIM) Strategy, African leaders recognized that the African maritime domain has vast potential for wealth creation.
Also, realising that AU Member States have common maritime challenges and opportunities, and indeed, significant responsibilities for generating the desirable political will for implementing the strategy, the 2050 AIM Strategy provides a broad framework for the protection and sustainable exploitation of the Africa’s Maritime Domain (AMD) for holistic development.
The strategy is the product of cross-cutting inputs from African experts, including Think Tanks, NGOs and Academia, Regional Economic Communities (RECs), Regional Mechanisms (RMs), AU Member States, specialized institutions and other important stakeholders, such as Maritime Organization of West and Central Africa (MOWCA), African Port Management Associations (APMA), Union of African Shippers Council (UASC), Maritime Training Institutions, all MoUs on Port State Control, the United Nations, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the International Labour Organization (ILO), World Trade Organization (WTO), World Custom Organization (WCO), International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), Global Shippers Forum (GSF), International Hydrography Organization (IHO) and the private sector.
The AIMS 2050 document is structured to address contending, emerging and future maritime challenges and opportunities in Africa, taking into account the interest of landlocked countries, with a clear focus on enhanced wealth creation from a sustainable governance of Africa’s inland waters, oceans and seas.
Water covers more than two-thirds of the earth’s surface and affects life everywhere.
Africa is the second biggest continent and has the largest island. Africa’s 43 million km² area, covers one-fifth of the surface of the earth, with a coastline of over 26,000 nautical miles, including its islands.
Thirty-eight (39) African countries are either coastal or island states, while fifty-two (52) of its over one hundred port facilities, handle containers and various forms of cargo.
However, African owned ships could only account for about 1.2% of global shipping by number and about 0.9% by gross tonnage, while African ports handle 6% of worldwide water borne cargo traffic with approximately 3% of the global container traffic.
Quite rightly, the African Union aptly described the emerging Blue Economy as the “New Frontier of African Renaissance”.
Africa’s aquatic and marine spaces have become increasingly common topics of political discourse; while its natural resources have remained largely underexploited but are now being recognized for their potential contribution to inclusive and sustainable development.
Africa’s “Blue word” is made of vast lakes and rivers and an extensive ocean resource base. The Blue Economy can play a major role in Africa’s structural transformation, sustainable economic progress, and social development.
The largest sectors of the current African aquatic and ocean-based economy are fisheries, aquaculture, tourism, transport, ports, coastal mining, and energy.
The “Rio +20” United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), held in Rio de Janeiro, 20-22 June 2012, focused on two key themes, the further development and refinement of the Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development and the advancement of the “Green Economy” concept.
The meeting, in its outcome document, reaffirmed poverty eradication as its key challenge: “Eradicating poverty is the greatest global challenge facing the world today and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. In this regard we are committed to freeing humanity from poverty and hunger as a matter of urgency.”
(Para 2. The future we want. UNCSD 2012).
The Green Economy concept is structured to reflect this, being explicitly based and presented in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication: “We consider green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty, eradication as one of the important tools available for achieving sustainable development… We emphasize that it should contribute to eradicating poverty as well as sustained economic growth, enhancing social inclusion, improving human welfare and creating opportunities for employment and decent work for all, while maintaining the healthy functioning of the Earth’s ecosystems.”
(Para 56. The future we want. UNCSD 2012).
Throughout the preparatory process for Rio +20, many coastal countries questioned the focus of the Green Economy and its applicability to them. Strong positions were presented to the Rio +20 preparatory process for a “Blue Economy” approach to be more prominently addressed.
This approach has broad relevance as the Oceans, including humankind’s common heritage of the High Seas, represent in many respects the final frontier for humanity and its quest for sustainable development.
Institutional efforts were made to expand the Blue aspect of the Green Economy as embodied in the “Green Economy in a Blue World”, but international momentum has moved beyond this point while Africa lags behind.
Throughout and subsequent to the Rio +20 process there were growing appreciation that the world’s Oceans and Seas require more in-depth attention and coordinated action.
This has been reflected in various initiatives inter alia the UNDESA expert group meeting on Oceans, Seas and Sustainable Development, the work of the Global Ocean Commission, the Global Partnership for Oceans and the prominence given to oceans and seas in the UN five-year Action Agenda, 2012-2016.
Coastal and Island developing countries have remained at the forefront of the Blue Economy advocacy, recognising that the oceans have a major role to play in humanity’s future and that the Blue Economy offers an approach to sustainable development better suited to their circumstances, constraints and challenges.
This “Blue word” is more than just an economic space, it is part of Africa’s rich geographical, social, and cultural canvas. With a better understanding of the enormous opportunities emerging from investing and reinvesting in Africa’s aquatic and marine spaces, the balance can be tipped away from illegal harvesting, degradation, and depletion to a sustainable Blue development paradigm, serving Africa today and tomorrow.
If fully exploited and well managed, Africa’s Blue Economy can constitute a major source of wealth and catapult the continent’s fortunes.
Africa’s economies continue to grow at remarkable rates, including through the exploitation of the rich endowment of land-based natural resources and commodity exports.
Converting this growth into quality growth, through the generation of inclusive wealth, within environmental limits and respecting the highest social considerations, requires bold new thinking.
It also involves the creation of jobs for a population on the rise. The Blue Economy offers that opportunity.
The Blue Economy Newsmagazine online has come to fill the seeming information gap.
Welcome to The Blue Economy. Happy reading.