Africa Union Commission (AUC) held a two day meeting from the 2-3 December 2019 to determine the operationalization of the continent’s Blue Economy Strategy. The retreat, which was hosted by AU-IBAR aimed to provide a clear understanding of the most effective way that the African Union (AU) will implement and best coordinate its maritime and blue economy strategies. The meeting also provided a draft document outlining the coordination mechanism for the implementation of the strategy.
The meeting was chaired by Dr. Godfrey Bahiigwa, the Director of the Africa Union – Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture. His opening remarks Dr. Bahiigwa emphasized the need for a strong communication and advocacy strategy; monitoring and progress reporting and better collaboration on blue economy related activities between AU departments.
Speaking during the official opening, AU Commission Deputy Chairperson H.E Thomas Kwesi noted that it is a great sense of pride that African Union has developed the Africa Blue Economy Strategy that provides strategic direction and a roadmap for the economic exploitation of the resources of oceans, lakes, rivers and other water bodies and the conservation of aquatic ecosystems.
He said there are still further opportunities for effectively tapping into the inherent potential of these aquatic resources for increased and sustainable contribution to the socio-economic transformation of the continent.
“We now know the blue economy concept is a multi-dimensional approach that integrates not only traditional activities such as fishing, shipping, trade, tourism but also considers vital components such as environmental sustainability, climate change, aquaculture, renewable energy, extractive minerals and gas, among others,” said H.E Kwesi.
He emphasized that, “In view of the diversity of the various components of the blue economy, it is of crucial importance to define a framework for effective coordination of these various components. This meeting is therefore timely as its sets out to develop an operational plan for the effective coordination of Africa blue economy strategy.”
Prof Ahmed Elsawalhy, AU-IBAR Director, noted that following the Nairobi Global Conference on Sustainable Blue Economy Conference in 2018, the African leaders seized the underlying opportunities for socio-economic transformation of the continent from sustainable ocean economy governance and related aquatic ecosystems and therefore tasked the African Union to work with stakeholders to develop a dedicated Blue Economy strategy for Africa.
“Through the office of Her Excellency the Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, AU-IBAR, being the lead AU agency overseeing the implementation of the AU policy framework and reform strategy for fisheries and aquaculture in Africa, was tasked with the responsibility to lead the process of formulation of the Africa Blue Economy Strategy,” Prof Elsawalhy said.
He said as a first step in the process, Her Excellency the Commissioner convened a side meeting during the February 2019 summit to define a roadmap for the formulation of the strategy. The meeting provided an opportunity to meet and discuss with experts from the various blue economy units in the country.
“An expert inception workshop was organized by AU-IBAR in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to develop a harmonized approach and methodology towards the formulation of the Strategy. A field visit was organized and sponsored for the experts to about 15 AU member states to collate lessons and best practices in blue economy development initiatives,” he said in his remarks.
As a concluding phase of the formulation process a stakeholder’s consultative meeting was organized by AU-IBAR that comprised of over 125 experts from diverse backgrounds and from all shades of blue economy sectors, at AU_IBAR premises, Nairobi, Kenya.
He noted that the output of the expert consultation was delivery of the ‘Africa Blue Economy Strategy’ consistent with international best practices and more importantly inbuilt with aspirations of the African people.
“The Strategy was recently endorsed by the Hon. Ministers at the 3rd Session of the Specialized Technical Committee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Water and Environment,” he said.
In her statement, Ms. Barkha Mossae, Second Secretary in the Embassy of the Republic of Mauritius in Addis Ababa proposed inclusiveness by ensuring all African Union Member states are on board, but also that women and children are included in national blue economy templates.
She also suggested that there should be Public sector upgrade in ensuring that our policy-makers are "ocean"-aware, trained/aware of the blue economy and on board with the fast pace of development under the 4th Industrial Revolution.
“Policy harmonization should be considered to ensure that we have the right policy frameworks in place, including an intellectual property rights regime, inter-agency coordination. She also proposed creation of networks by noting that Mauritius triggered a Coral Reef Network on the restoration of corals. As we move towards operationalizing the blue economy, such networks - in science, conservation etc. will become crucial,” she said.
The Africa Blue Economy Strategy that was developed under the leadership of AU-IBAR targets to overcome some of the challenges facing the Blue Economy in Africa which include; limited exploitation and tapping of blue economy sector in Africa, the menace of piracy, maritime border disputes, unsustainable exploitation and utilization of living resources, lack of coordination between the various blue economy sectors etc. These issues were highlighted by Dr. Mohamed Seisay, AU-IBAR Senior Fisheries Officer, during his presentation of Africa´s Blue Economy Strategy at the beginning of the retreat.
The presentation formed the foundation for discussions on specific areas of intervention. It came to light that some Regional Economic Communities (RECs) have already embarked on a process of developing regional blue economy strategies and are already implementing maritime security strategies (e.g. IGAD).
From the discussions, it was evident that the blue economy has become the ‘new frontline of Africa’s renaissance’. Due to the importance of this sector, from 2021 the AU Commission will, for the first time, include a dedicated maritime component in an agriculture, rural development, blue economy and sustainable development commission. It is for that reason the AU is working towards being a catalyst of the growth in this industry on the continent. Going forward, one of the key recommendations of the meeting is a development of a Coordination frame work to drive implementation of the Blue Economy Strategy at Continental, RECs and Member State levels. The establishment of a steering committee is to be constituted as a task force on Blue Economy for monitoring the overall implementation.
Forty (45) participants attended the meeting. These included; AUC Staff, Ambassadors and representatives to the African Union, invited officials from Regional Economic Communities that have drafted or are implementing blue economy strategies, International organizations with officials based in Addis Ababa or the region such as UNCTAD and UNECA and invited Experts in blue economy/maritime sectors based in Addis Ababa.