Africa’s Blue Economy Set to Drive Economic Growth

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The African continent needs to work together on a country and regional level to put in place and more crucially, implement a sustainable maritime governance system that will benefit the whole continent, concluded delegates at the first Africa Blue Economy Forum (ABEF).

ABEF 2018 was held in London on June 8, to coincide with World Oceans Day. The Forum attracted international experts and African government ministers to debate the economic contribution of oceans in the context of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Speaking on the panel discussing ‘The blue economy and ocean financing’, Gregor Paterson-Jones, an independent expert on renewable energy investment, said: “The blue economy is not a uniform theme. The green economy is more easily defined, because it relates to ‘clean’ energies. The blue economy has multiple sectors with different types of investment opportunities. I always say blue is the new green.”

A strong focus on action was prevalent throughout discussions at ABEF. David Luke, Coordinator, African Trade Policy Centre, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, remarked: “Because the blue economy is such a broad concept, we need to bring coherence to it. As far as Africa is concerned, we need to be part of the change we see happening on the continent for the blue economy to have traction.”

(Image Courtesy: ABEF 2018)

Speakers and delegates at ABEF 2018 agreed on the need for innovative financing to start developing the Africa blue economy on a wider scale, not only from governments, but also the private sector. Relevant data and more research is required to shape policies, especially with regard to climate change. Focusing on educating Africa’s youth is also the key to shaping the blue economy, which has the capacity to provide desperately needed jobs for the younger generation across the continent.

South Africa leads the way to Maritime Prosperity

South Africa is championing and implementing ocean policies that aim to do just that. South Africa only recently decided to prioritise ocean and maritime policies – partly for economic gain, and partly because of maritime security threats. For example as part of Operation Phakisa in 2014 it launched an oceans economy project in response to criticisms that implementation of its National Development Plan was too slow. Phakisa is intended to quicken the delivery of projects that contribute to national development and economic growth.

The oceans must not be looked at for their economic value alone – and more marine protected areas should be encouraged and declared. These areas are key to sustaining ocean health, and South Africa aims to expand their coverage to 20% of its exclusive economic zone by 2028 under its National Protected Areas Expansion Strategy. South Africa’s unique and strategically important geographic location (it is surrounded by three oceans – the Atlantic, Indian and Southern) presents it with a complicated set of maritime security challenges.

(Image Courtesy: TOGO 2016)

Contribution of Ports

More strategic investment in Africa’s ports can accelerate growth and development by strengthening trade as these are gateways for 80 percent of merchandise trade by volume and 70 percent by value, globally.

This is according to an analysis report of port development in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) issued by the global auditing firm PwC on Thursday which stated that Africa needed to take advantage of the economic potential of its ports and shipping sector to realise its growth ambitions.

“Globally, ports are gateways for 80% of merchandise trade by volume and 70% by value. Investment in ports and their related transport infrastructure to advance trade and promote overall economic development and growth is therefore vital, particularly in emerging economies that are currently under-served by modern transportation facilities,” the PwC report said.

“However, port investment must be channelled appropriately to ensure financial sustainability and economic growth. Investment is not always about building new ports or terminals, investment spent on infrastructure without cognisance of the efficiency and effectiveness of the performance of the port may not produce the desired results.”

Efficient port operations in Mombasa and Dar es Salaam are critical to increased throughput and evacuation of cargo. Investments in rail are seen as a major step towards contributing to improved performance.

Developments in multimodal operations and master planning of the ports to keep up to date with increasing throughput, which in turn fuels economic growth are critical to efficiency. In the long run, East Africa is expected to a be a major transshipment hub on the East Coast of Africa, which will reduce freight costs, in addition to contributing to the Belt and Road.

Port of Durban (Image Courtesy: JOC)

Experts’ Take on Prospects of African Economy

Paul Holthus, CEO of the World Ocean Council and keynote speaker at ABEF 2018, remarked: “Africa presents major blue economy investment opportunities and also sustainable development challenges. We are working to bring together ocean business community leadership and collaboration in Africa to address both these opportunities and challenges.”

Stanislas Baba, Minister-Counsellor to the President of the Togolese Republic, said: “Trade is an unexploited resource in Africa, but the blue economy has to be handled carefully. USD 350 million is lost each year in Africa due to illegal fishing. We can combat poverty by using our seas.”

Achieving a regional approach will not be easy, said Yonov Frederick Agah, Deputy Director General, World Trade Organisation. “One of the problems we have in Africa is that we don’t like ideas,” he remarked. “”Blueprint programmes are lying on the shelf. Integration means letting go of certain things.”

(References: IOL, allAfrica, ABEF 2018)

Sea News Feature, June 15

Baibhav Mishra
Author: Baibhav Mishra