Africa’s blue economy potential for diversification

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Africa’s blue economy highlights the concerns of landlocked nations and inland water habitats. It entails many highly productive activities, the results of which, if well-managed, may significantly contribute to the continent’s economic take-off.

  • Africa has great potential in trade and transportation activities by sea, inland waterway, and lake.
  • Notably, 38 of Africa’s 54 nations are coastal, with marine zones under Africa’s jurisdiction.
  • The blue economy offers a multisectoral and integrated approach to the sustainable management of various activities to achieve socioeconomic change and sustainable development.

What is the blue economy

According to the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Union Commission, the blue economy includes all activities that develop or derive from marine and aquatic environments, such as oceans, coastlines, seas, rivers, lakes, and groundwater, as well as the resources associated with them.

The blue economy offers a multisectoral and integrated approach to the sustainable management of various activities to achieve socioeconomic change and sustainable development. As such, the blue economy can create value chains. These value chains can significantly contribute to the structural transformation of economies, job creation, poverty reduction, and social standards improvement.

READ MORE: Africa’s best blue economy investment opportunities

Africa’s blue economy highlights the concerns of landlocked nations and inland water habitats. It entails many highly productive activities, the results of which, if well-managed, may significantly contribute to the continent’s economic take-off.

Africa has great potential in trade and transportation activities by sea, inland waterway, and lake. The mix of activities varies in each country. The variation is based on country-specific conditions and the existing vision and knowledge of the blue economy. In a larger sense, the blue economy is related to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in various ways.

Beyond SDG 14 on the protection and sustainable utilisation of marine resources, seas, and oceans, the blue economy offers many options to help eradicate poverty, enhance food security, eliminate hunger, and provide access to clean water.

Possibilities in the African blue economy

Regarding potential in marine and terrestrial natural resources, Africa is one of the world’s most endowed continents. Notably, 38 of Africa’s 54 nations are coastal, with marine zones under Africa’s jurisdiction. The continent’s over 47,000 kilometres of coastline has immense potential for developing businesses customarily linked with the blue economy.

Furthermore, African lake zones are believed to comprise 240,000 square kilometres. The transboundary river basins cover 64 per cent of Africa’s land area. According to the African Union, more than 90 per cent of Africa’s imports and exports are delivered by sea. This makes the continent a strategic hub for global and regional commerce.

Terrestrial resources seem to be receiving more attention from governments and other stakeholders in most African nations, to the point that they cause conflicts and political instability in certain regions.

However, most of these riches, mainly marine resources that contribute to the blue economy, have yet to be appropriately used to encourage the economic transformation of the world’s resource-richest continent.

On the other hand, marine resources, which include both freshwater bodies and oceans, may provide enormous economic prospects such as tourism, trade, aquaculture, oil drilling, seabed mining and fisheries, all of which can significantly change Africa’s future. Even though many maritime resources are utilised, certain resources (such as marine fisheries) are over-utilised or inappropriately used, for example, through damaging fishing practices.

Furthermore, the problem of management and planning (governance) of aquatic ecosystems, products and services are inadequate, resulting in environmental degradation, loss and waste of essential resources, and disputes between users.

The crucial role of marine fisheries 

Africa’s marine catch fisheries production now stands at seven million tonnes. [Photo/Eddie Ssejjoba]
Africa’s marine catch fisheries production now stands at seven million tonnes. It has risen in recent years due to a robust recovery in West African small pelagic catches and a return to normalcy in the Indian Ocean after the end of Somalian piracy.

However, the positive increase in marine fish supply remains insufficient for the expanding population’s per capita consumption needs. By 2030, the African population might exceed 1.7 billion and 2.5 billion by 2050. As a result, feeding the population at the current per capita consumption level requires 13 million tonnes of marine fish in 2030 and over 19 million tonnes in 2050.

These projections indicate a production shortfall of around 6 million tonnes in 2030 and 12 million in 2050. They also show that significant changes are necessary to boost ecosystem capacity and capture and valorisation methods to meet such objectives.

Many African nations’ fisheries guidelines, institutional structures, and skill bases remain heavily influenced by a historical emphasis on production and revenue maximisation each year, driven by the need to generate revenue with minimal or no regard for resource sustainability and productivity. Most of the major fish resources have been overexploited due to this technique.

Focusing on Africa 

As a result, Africa should prioritise integrated management strategies in fisheries. This will guarantee that the benefits of a continent with such an abundance of resources go to Africans. This move entails prioritising African agendas to address the primary needs of food security and livelihoods within the continent before considering exports.

Enhancing fisheries’ capacity to contribute significantly to national economies in a sustainable manner would not only fulfil these objectives but will also boost the development of blue economies and the delivery of national, regional, and international objectives and goals such as the SDGs.

Fishery assistance should get preference in the context of the growth of the blue economy at the national, regional, and continental levels. Concentrating value addition in coastal nations rather than exports can significantly help the fisheries industry contribute to wealth development.

Fisheries are the primary indicator of changes at sea. Thus, fisheries play a critical role in protecting essential ecosystems and rehabilitating damaged ones. This remains feasible within the framework of a blue economy strategy that articulates marine biodiversity. This includes solutions that enhance climate change’s adaptation and mitigation perspectives. As a result, fisheries have a promising future at the centre of the African blue economy.

An opportunity for economic diversification

With immense ocean and lake resources at its doorstep, Africa has a significant chance to diversify its economy. Consequently, Africa can address the risks associated with reliance on particular economic sectors, which limits socioeconomic progress.

If planned and executed sustainably and equitably, such economic diversification can expand the African blue economy. The expansion can contain the continent’s increased vulnerability to global economic shocks. As seen with Covid-19 and the Ukrainian crisis, the shocks can deter long-term economic growth.

Furthermore, the blue economy presents a huge potential for job creation for the African youth through small-scale fishing and ocean entrepreneurship. However, the youth need sufficient technical and practical training to participate in lawful maritime activities. Unlawful maritime practices can threaten environmental sustainability and result in the extinction of endangered marine species.

With the Blue Economy in place, governments will have a significant chance to generate new streams of income. The income can help fund development goals and minimise donor reliance on national budgets.

Policymakers at the continental and national levels must work towards integrating the blue economy into a larger economic picture. Above all, they must develop laws and regulations supporting the sustainable use of marine resources.

The regulations will address the threats to sustainability. These include illegal, unregulated, unreported fishing, marine pollution, biodiversity destruction, and climate change. The change will guarantee that all economic activity arising from Africa’s blue economy remains long-term and continues to benefit Africans.

Africa seeks economic prosperity rooted in sustainable development and inclusive growth. Appropriate governance and exploitation of the latent potential in the African blue economy can accelerate economic growth. Consequently, this can help alleviate poverty throughout the continent.

READ MORE: Africa’s untapped blue economy stymying economic growth

I am a writer based in Kenya with vast knowledge in Business, Economics, Blockchain, Law and Environmental Conservation.

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