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Africa’s 38 Coastal Nations Encouraged to Work with Landlocked Neighbours to Develop the Continent’s ‘Blue Economy’

Delegates at the recently-concluded Africa Blue Economy Forum (ABEF 2018) have encouraged Africa’s 38 coastal nations to work with their landlocked neighbours to develop the continent’s oceanic economy.
The Forum, which kicked off for the first time in early June, attracted international experts to debate ways to harness Africa’s oceans, which form an integral part of the Blue Economy.
“The blue economy is not simply the responsibility of the 38 African coastal countries, but is also highly relevant to their landlocked neighbours,” commented Leila Ben Hassen, Founder and CEO of ABEF organiser, Blue Jay Communication, in a statement issued this week.
“We must all contribute to put the blue economy into action, to help reduce poverty, improve livelihoods and assure sustainable socio-economic development,” she added.
Delegates at the event concluded that Africa’s nations need to work together on a country and regional level to put in place and implement a sustainable maritime governance system that will benefit the whole continent.
ABEF 2018 took place in London on 8th June, 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 United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“Trade is an unexploited resource in Africa, but the blue economy has to be handled carefully. $350 million is lost each year in Africa due to illegal fishing. We can combat poverty by using our seas,” said Stanislas Baba, Minister-Counsellor to the President of the Togolese Republic.
Achieving a regional approach will not be easy, noted 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 adding that “Blueprint programmes are lying on the shelf. Integration means letting go of certain things.”
“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,” Paul Holthus, CEO of the World Ocean Council and keynote speaker at ABEF 2018, remarked.
Speaking as part of a panel discussing ‘The blue economy and ocean financing’, Gregor Paterson-Jones, an independent expert on renewable energy investment, said that 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,” he explained.
A strong focus on action was prevalent throughout discussions at ABEF.
“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,” said David Luke, Coordinator for the African Trade Policy Centre at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.
Speakers and delegates at ABEF 2018 agreed on the need for innovative financing to start developing Africa’s blue economy on a wider scale, not only from governments, but also the private sector. They stated that relevant data and more research is required to shape policies, especially with regard to climate change.
They noted that focusing on educating Africa’s youth will also be key to shaping the blue economy, which has the capacity to provide desperately needed jobs for the younger generation across the continent.