The blue economy conference recently held in Nairobi ended on a high note but the momentum of implementing agreed concepts should not lose steam.



Although 38 of Africa’s 55 nations, including Kenya, have access to resource-rich oceans, they are yet to fully exploit the full potential of the water masses.

That is why Africa needs a big leap forward in the ocean economy, to accelerate its socio-economic development and unlock its true potential. To achieve this, I highlight a few suggestions that can fit into the larger blue economy jigsaw puzzle.

First, there is a need to push for a more robust global ocean governance system to ensure sustainable and equitable utilisation of ocean resources and to address harmful practices that damage the ocean’s capacity to provide long-term sustained benefits to people. These harmful practices include overfishing, habitat destruction, plastic pollution, and dumping of toxic wastes, among many others.

The global celestial space is more regulated than the high seas. Currently, outside the exclusive economic zones of individual countries, especially around Africa, it is a ‘free for all’, where everybody does pretty much what they like, resulting in loopholes and unwholesome practices that undermine the realisation of a viable blue economy for all.

Appropriate and transnational regulatory regimes would be crucial to ensure an accelerated and effective development of the blue economy.

Second, science and technology must be leveraged more actively to accelerate realisation of the blue economy potential for countries and communities in Africa, based on evidence and not sentiments.

For instance, there is a critical need to use available scientific tools such as Natural Capital Accounting to quantify the total benefits that oceans in Africa provide to people and the economy.

The benefits that need accurate valuation may include tourism, carbon sequestration, food, cultural sights, fish regeneration and protection from coastal storms.

This accounting or mapping exercise will engender better appreciation of the crucial importance of the oceans among policy makers, private sector and citizens and result in smarter decision-making and investments on sustainable utilisation and protection of its resources.

If, for example, a coastal ecosystem like Lamu in Kenya, or Bazaruto in Mozambique, is valued at say $1 billion a year in terms of the aggregate benefits it provides, then its degradation would be seen in true light by policy makers and communities and appropriate win-win decisions for investments, development and conservation of the ecosystem would be made.

The good news is that at least 13 countries in Africa are already working together to implement this types of nature-focused accounting systems under the framework of the Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa (GDSA). But this initiative should be extended to their blue economies, and further extended to beyond the existing 13-member countries.

Third, innovative and sustainable financing is urgently needed to fund current and future well-thought out ideas and plans for developing the blue economy across Africa. From the local governance institutions, to continental ones like the African Union, there is no shortage of worthy blueprints for Africa’s blue economy development.

However, resourcing such plans remains a critical challenge.

Michael O’Brien-Onyeka, Senior vice president, Conservation International Africa Field Division.