Africa’s marine and terrestrial natural resources are enormous but most of these riches have not been fully utilized which limit their potential to transform the continent’s economy.
The AUDA-Nepad notes that thirty-eight of Africa’s 54 states are coastal and Africa’s lake zones are estimated to cover approximately 240,000 sq km while its transboundary river basins cover 64 per cent of the continent’s land area. The African Union (AU) highlights that over 90 per cent of Africa’s imports and exports were transported by sea, making the continent a strategic gateway for both regional and international trade.
With the vast ocean and lake resources at Africa’s disposal, African countries have an enormous opportunity to diversify their economies which will help address the risks of relying on specific economic sectors whose consequences are largely limiting to the chances of promoting socio-economic development.
By growing the blue economy, the continent can mitigate the risk posed by the increased vulnerability of external shocks from the global economic system that can inhibit longer-term economic prosperity in the continent.
In addition, the blue economy proffers an enormous opportunity for youth which can help address an issue where the majority of African youth are unemployed tapping into the blue economy could help create employment for these youth through small-scale fisheries and even ocean entrepreneurship.
But, these youth need to receive proper practical and technical training to enable them to engage in legal marine practices which will not pose a threat to the environment or lead to the disappearance of endangered marine species.
Kenya has taken a step in this direction where the country is positioning itself to reap the benefits offered by the blue economy.
In June 2021, the East African nation unveiled its Kshs 10 billion (US$ 84 million) Kenya Marine Fisheries Socio-Economic Development Project which is aimed at uplifting the income of fishing communities along the Kenyan coast.
The World Bank-supported project seeks to create over 60,000 new jobs in the fishing sector over the next decade and will benefit 19 sub-counties in Kenya’s coastal counties of Kwale, Mombasa, Kilifi, Tana River, and Lamu.
The East African nation is commercializing its country’s enormous marine resources for the benefit of Kenyans by creating well-thought strategic national systems to ensure the landing of more than 300,000 metric tonnes of fish annually and in turn, create at least 60,000 jobs over the next 10 years.
President said at the launch that the project is part of the government’s post-Covid-19 recovery efforts adding that the initiative, to be rolled in 5 years, will lead to sustainable utilization of Kenya’s marine fisheries resources.
He said the immense opportunity provided by the project must be exploited to generate investments, create jobs, increase tax revenues and sustainably improve local livelihoods.
Kenyatta said that when successfully completed, the project is expected to contribute to sustainable exploitation of Kenya’s marine fisheries which ostensibly represents a new dawn in the development of the coastal region.
The president also outlined several other interventions the government is implementing to expand opportunities for employment and wealth creation in the emerging blue economy sector.
Among these is the creation of a dedicated office to deal with oceans and the country’s blue economy, the revival of Liwatoni fish Port and a plan to set up a fish processing factory in Lamu. To address capacity building in the sector, the Bandari Maritime Academy has been designated as a centre of excellence for training seafarers and fisherfolk in the country.
Building the capacity of the country’s fishermen to world standards is an essential part of this effort.
The enhanced management framework, under the Oceans and Blue economy Office should ensure that fishing vessels licensed to operate in our waters provide job and training opportunities for the fishermen the country’s young people who are suffering from underemployment and a lack of jobs.
Stakeholders in the project say that it is a new frontier in improving the livelihoods of fishing communities and spurring the growth of related industries in the region.
Kenyans living at the Kenyan Coast are closely intertwined with fishing and investments and policy reforms in the sector will ensure that more people benefit from the integrated development and exploitation of the blue economy and other sectors such as agribusiness, infrastructure, tourism, education, and training.
With an ongoing maritime border dispute with Somalia, Kenya’s blue economy currently contributes only 2.5 per cent to its GDP. The country has enormous untapped resources in its expansive 200,000-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
With an estimated 150,000 and 300,000 tonnes of fish swimming throughout the EEZ, Kenya lies within the lucrative tuna belt. This is one of the most pressing reasons why Kenya is investing in blue-economy principles and increased investment in the sustainable development of its tuna resources.
In addition, Kenya can invest in blue-forest habitats like the mangrove forests where carbon storage offers the country a unique opportunity for financial gain through the incentives of the blue-carbon market.
For instance, the Blue Carbon Project in Gazi Bay is expected to store up to 3,000 tonnes of CO2 which could inject almost US$12,000 per year into the local community through the sale of carbon credits.
In addition to the 38 coastal African countries, the continent has six islands whose combined maritime industry is estimated to be worth US$1 trillion per year. It is expected that this figure will grow as these nations develop their offshore energy, tourism, hydrocarbon, maritime transport, shipping, and fishing sectors.
The blue economy is central to Africa’s sustainable development and the sector can play a key role in achieving the continent’s Agenda 2063.
Marine resources include freshwater bodies and oceans which can offer significant economic opportunities in fisheries, oil drilling, seabed mining, aquaculture, tourism, and trade which can drastically transform Africa’s future.
The setback for many African countries is that some of these marine resources are either over-utilized or improperly used leading to their destruction. There is also degradation of ecosystems which is leading to the loss and waste of valuable resources and at times causing conflicts.
All these have to be addressed to ensure that African nations can benefit maximally from these resources.