Kigali, 23 December (ECA) - In the Agenda 2063 of the African Union, it is asserted that the "blue-world" should be major contributors to the transformation and growth of the continent: "The blue economy is the future of Africa ". The "blue world" is made up of not only oceans and seas in Africa but also lakes, rivers and marine areas rich in natural resources.

Thirty-eight of Africa's 54 countries are coastal states and more than 90 per cent of the continent's imports and exports are transiting through the sea. Several of the most strategic trade corridors on the planet are located in Africa. Territorial waters under African jurisdiction total some 13 million square kilometers. Productivity from sectors directly or indirectly linked to the blue economy in Africa is often higher than the average for the economy as a whole.

A regional meeting for the promotion and development of the blue economy in the Indian Ocean was held from 12 to 13 December by the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) in Saint Denis on the island of Réunion. The meeting recommended the dissemination of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa's (ECA) "Handbook on the Blue Economy" as a methodological tool for national interventions and the elaboration of an IOC Regional Action Plan.

The handbook provides a step-by-step guide to help African countries and organizations integrate the principles of the blue economy into their policies, plans and strategies. It was published in April 2016 following regional consultations initiated by the ECA Subregional Office for Eastern Africa in March 2015 in Antananarivo, Madagascar.All IOC Member States - namely Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Reunion (France) and Seychelles - participated in the meeting at Saint Denis. A range of socio-economic and environmental stakeholders were also represented.

The participants discussed various aspects of the blue economy, including the sustainable use of the vast reservoir of renewable energies in the oceans, the preservation of marine biodiversity, sustainable tourism and port development, and the appropriate management of maritime transport and trade.