One of the most underutilized resources for promoting economic growth and development in Africa is the “blue economy,” which refers to the sustainable use of ocean and coastal resources to enhance livelihoods and jobs.
Nevertheless, freshwater habitats and ocean ecosystems occupy 64% of the continent, and 38 of the 55 African Union member states are coastal or island states, according to the AU Commission.
On the other hand, some of these African nations that have access to freshwater resources like rivers and lakes are on the edge of a humanitarian catastrophe brought on by problems like starvation that are tied to climate change.
For instance, according to a recent estimate by the International Rescue Committee, nearly 14 million people—roughly half of them children—live in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia and are on the verge of starvation. Furthermore, because the majority of these countries depend on agriculture, it was predicted that if the lack of rain persists, the figure may quickly reach 20 million.
The continent has not yet developed the technological infrastructure needed to access its freshwater resources and the blue economy as potential sources of dietary diversity and food security.
The African Union Commission co-organized a side event bringing together key stakeholders driving continental, regional, and subregional policy in Africa at the recently concluded United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal, in recognition of the difficulties posed by the underutilization of Africa’s blue economy. Participants identified areas of intervention where actions and partnerships might promote concrete ocean commitments and explored Africa’s needs with regard to blue economic growth.
In his 1999 book, Development as Freedom, Indian economist and philosopher Amartya Sen claimed that progress, by its very nature, increases freedom. The African Union’s Agenda 2063, which is the continent’s plan to become a future global superpower, now includes the blue economy as a key component of its developmental strategy.
As most pessimists would agree, freedom is indeed coming to Africa, but the realization of this freedom is based on an African proverb that reads, “Go alone if you want to move quickly.” But if you want to travel a distance, travel in groups.
As a continent, we have allies who are prepared to walk alongside us as we develop our technical and technological ability, advance inclusive initiatives and purpose-led innovation, and advance the development of a sustainable blue economy in Africa. China has been that companion and has been like a sibling.
Beijing has used its resources and expertise since 2000, through the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation and the Belt and Road Initiative, to turn Africa’s ageing infrastructure into one that is now highly coveted.
China, a nation of 1.4 billion people, has been able to use its blue economy to provide “blue food” (the harvesting of seafood and marine plant species), promote “blue tourism,” open up new opportunities for renewable energy sources, and provide dependable sea commerce routes. This has made it possible for the blue economy to integrate with other economic sectors.
The African Union’s Agenda 2063, for instance, addresses the development of institutional frameworks and the blue economy for increased economic growth in Africa.
The majority of these frameworks must, however, be connected with activities at the national and sub-national levels.
In China, the central and municipal governments have sponsored regional projects while providing policy advice and support for the growth of the blue economy. The creation of the Shandong Peninsula Blue Economic Zone is a clear example of this.
Given that the global market for marine biotechnology is anticipated to reach $5.9 billion by the end of the year, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Africa can also profit from the establishment of blue economic zones.
Africa is at a turning point. The COVID-19 pandemic’s socioeconomic effects have slowed the dream of the African Renaissance. The blue economy will, however, undoubtedly play a significant part in Africa’s structural change and provide real solutions for a post-pandemic economic recovery strategy. It has the ability to improve food security, employment, and creativity.