Between 26th-28th November 2018, Canada, Japan, and Kenya hosted the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference in Nairobi. This was the first conference involving all the stakeholders, and it attracted over 18,000 participants. The focus of this conference was the impact of climate change and pollution on the aquatic ecosystem. Africa is no longer placing all its focus on the land, but it has also turned its attention to the waters. Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Mauritius, Madagascar, and Seychelles have already set the ball rolling by establishing Ministries whose focus will be the trade in the blue economy.
What does the blue economy mean for Africa?
Diversification of the economy
The Agricultural sector in Africa is facing many challenges. This includes climate change, reduction in farmland, attacks by pests and diseases, and the slow pace in the adoption of technology that could see agribusiness in Africa transform to a $1trillion sector. Even as Africa struggles to implement the necessary changes to boost food security and trade in Agriculture, they acknowledge that it is time to include the blue economy in their plans for sustainable development.
Improved GDP – 70% of the African states are coastal
38 out of the 54 African countries have a coastal line, which is estimated to be 31,000km long. According to the United Nations, the lake zones in Africa cover an area of 240,000sq km while the river basins cover about 64% of Africa’s land area. When it comes to fresh water, the great lakes of Africa have the most substantial proportion in the world. Amazingly, until today, this has been a neglected sector. Ironically, when a layman is asked what he knows about the ocean, the responses are often negative. It is time the narrative changed from illegal fishing, and maritime insecurity, and Africa is taking the initiative to bring out some positivity from its waters.
Increased employment opportunities
Amazingly, most of the communities that live close to the water bodies in Africa are often the poorest. This is because, for a long time, Africa’s attention has been on the land. The waters have been neglected, and so have the communities that rely on the waterbodies for survival. Hopefully, the attention given to the blue economy will turn things around for these communities.
Fortunately, African countries, acknowledge that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to the blue economy. Each state is unique and should be allowed to focus on its strength. South Africa, for example, has a national development plan known as Operation Phakisa. This is an industrial approach whose aim is to create at least one million jobs by 2030 and earn the country an additional $13 billion.
Mauritius has a land area of 1,850km2 and over 1.9million km2 of waters surrounding it. Although it is a small country, its territorial waters are almost the size of South Africa. Mauritius has one of the strongest blue economies in Africa and is taking a similar approach to South Africa’s. In 2015, this small nation had the highest per capita income in Africa.
Intra-trade among the African states
Unfortunately, African nations have not met their potential as trading partners. Much emphasis has been on trading between Africa and the other continents. Africa has the potential of building partnerships through the blue economy. The marine and aquatic sectors can be of benefit to the coastal, landlocked, and islands of Africa. Each country is unique, and it can reap the benefits by forming partnerships with countries that are struggling to meet the demand for some fish species.
The introduction of sustainable technologies
Compared to the technology available in the production of food from the land, the blue economy is lacking. Despite its potential, this sector of the economy has been neglected for decades. There is a constant revolution in farming practices. Fishing in the lakes and oceans has excellent potential. Unfortunately, because this sector has not received enough support and recognition, old fishing methods that have negatively affected production continues to be used.
Increase the availability of raw materials
The production of animal feeds is a lucrative business in Africa. Unfortunately, the cost of feeds is still quite high for most farmers. This is mainly because of the cost of raw materials, especially fish, which is a common ingredient in the feeds. Support for the blue economy is not only good for aquaculture but agriculture as well.
Africa is taking steps to improve its economy. Even though it is currently focused on enhancing the potential of its agricultural land, including the blue economy will eventually have an impact on agribusiness. With Africa including the blue economy in its plans for sustainable development, investment opportunities will increase. The result will be a more developed, adoptive Africa with more significant potential for improved food security.