By Duncan Mboyah
-20 October 2016-The World Bank has pledged to support Africa’s Blue Economy as a pathway out of poverty for millions of families across the continent. Dr. Haleh Bridi, director of World Bank says that if well managed, Blue Economy can contribute to food and nutrition supply, jobs and wealth creation, community resilience, as well as national economies.
“We are committed to supporting countries to unlock the potential of the Blue Economy through investments, analytical work and partnerships,” Bridi says during at a side event on embracing Blue Economy for Africa’s accelerated growth.
Bridi observes that African countries need more economic growth, food, jobs and resilience that could be solved by opportunities offered by aquatic resources. She challenges African governments to sustainably exploit aquatic resources, resilient coasts and the services they provide as tremendous assets to benefit the current and future generations.
Bridi regrets that climate change is putting additional pressure on coastal aquatic resources and results in weather-related disasters and changes in water acidity, temperature and currents; and coastal erosion affecting the livelihoods of coastal communities and destroying valuable assets.
“There is need for urgent strategic vision and commitment, good governance, and investments is needed to build the resilience of the coasts and the people who depend on these resources and use the tremendous potential offered by a thriving Blue Economy,” she notes.
She says that the world’s and Africa’s coasts and aquatic resources are under threat from the negative impacts of rapid economic growth, mismanagement, and natural factors adding that in 2010, over 123 million people lived in coastal areas.
She calls on African countries to translate Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to actions to help conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
She says that for communities and the ocean economies to reap the benefits, investments must be made to support improved governance, build community initiatives, and create the enabling environment for the private sector to engage in the blue economy in a responsible and sustainable way.
Bridi calls for good governance based on science, data and technology to help in realizing governance reforms and place coastal communities at the center and provide them with the rights and tools needed.
Over 12 million people are engaged in the fisheries sector alone in Africa besides the continent having 13 percent of the world’s 100 best beaches. According to the World Bank official, if well managed, coastal areas could become a driver for tourism development for the continent’s Gross Development Product (GDP).
Prof. Ahmed El-Sawalhy, the director of AU Inter African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) says that the Blue Economy approach to development offers a responsible and sustainable approach to the use of oceans, seas and other water bodies that is more environmentally, socially and economically effective.
“The opportunities to realise the Blue Economy Growth are vast and the AU embraces it and it is gaining momentum on the continent,” he says. Adding that the Blue Economy development approach is fully embedded in the African Agenda 2063 that entails the development of blue/ocean economy for accelerated growth, that is a strategic framework document for inclusive growth and sustainable development.
“The sustainable management of fisheries and coastal resources,maritime transportation and mining are expected to lead in meeting this goal,” and observes that African continent is adjacent to vast expanse of seas and oceans and has massive networks of rivers and lakes which provide ecosystems services and sources of diverse economic activities.
He notes that the oceans have a major role to play in continent’s socio-economic growth and that the Blue Economy offers a viable approach to sustainable development. “This can easily be realised through the focus on transportation, fisheries and aquaculture operations, ecotourism, energy and mineral extraction,” he adds.
Prof. El-Sawalhy however notes that the potential of the aquatic resources and marine ecosystems can only be realized if they can be maintained and restored to a healthy and productive state to meet the global market. He adds that it is the duty of all AU member states to ensure that they played by the laid down guidelines to be able to benefit from the approach.
From the perspectives of Fisheries and Aquaculture contribution to Blue Economy growth, African Union has taken steps in an endeavor to harness the full potential of its aquatic and marine resource living resources.
Due to the seemingly intractable challenges to maximizing the benefits of these resources, as part of the strategy for contributing to blue economy growth initiative, the Policy Framework and Reform Strategy for Fisheries and Aquaculture was developed and endorsed by 23rd summit of African Heads of States and Governments in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, June 2014.
The initiative is aimed at creating a conducive and enabling environment for the fisheries and aquaculture sector for equitable, social and economic development in Africa.
The AU is keen at the social welfare and pro-poor inclusive growth, harnessing the full economic potential from trade and marketing of fish and fish products, building resilience to climate change, gender equity and inclusive approach to sector development.
He says that the blue economy approach is an addition to the 2050 Africa Integrated Maritime Strategy that also provides a broad framework for the protection and sustainable exploitation of the Africa maritime domain for wealth creation, resource and environmental sustainability.
The strategy recognises that AU Member States have common maritime challenges and opportunities, and indeed, significant responsibilities for generating the desirable political will for implementing the strategy sector for the benefits of the member states.
The agenda is an African owned blue print for fisheries and aquaculture development which supports African blue economy development and fully aligned with appropriate international best practices. Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Blue Economy observes that the funding should be aimed at promoting marine science and up scaling of projects within the sub sector.
“We need to give Blue Economy attention by investing in community initiatives, improved governance and ensure that fish stock are sustainably managed and oil explorations takes critical natural habitats,” Willy Bett says.
At the same time, Bett calls on African governments to put policies and guidelines in place towards the sustainable exploitation road map of the sub sector.
Bett says that a new structure that puts science and technology to guide operations at Lake Victoria is needed to conserve the lake and the fisheries resources for the benefit of improving the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“We must avoid the unplanned introduction of marine technology that in the end may lead to exploitation of fish,” he adds.
He reveals that Kenya and Uganda are currently discussing a harmonized approach towards fishing expeditions in Lake Victoria aiming at ending boundary disputes between the two countries.
Sierra Leone’s Minister for Finance and Economic Development Momodu Kargo says that recent initiatives with development partners has helped the country put in place illegal fishing monitoring centre, support fishermen and also engagement with regional countries on safe use of fisheries resources.
He says that his government is currently looking for partners to invest in marine resources to enable the country create jobs and also self sufficient in food.
“Foreign vessels have in the past exploited our fish resources and not benefited the country. This exploitation is now coming to an end,” he says.
The World Bank has been supporting the Kenya Coastal Development Project, the West Africa Regional Fisheries Program (WARFP), the South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Governance and Shared Growth Program (SWIOFish) and the Global Program on Fisheries (PROFISH), a multi-donor trust fund.
The World Bank is also undertaking several analytical works such as the US dollars 2 million Technical Assistance Climate Resilience for Livelihoods Dependent on Living Marine Resources in Africa that was started in early 2016.
“We are partnering with African Union Inter African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR), the European Union, Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Sub-regional Fisheries Commission and bilateral such as the governments of Japan and France,” Bridi says.