On September 15, 2023, in Naivasha, Kenya, the Second Project Steering Committee Meeting for "Conserving Aquatic Biodiversity in the African Blue Economy," sponsored by the Swedish International Development Agency, was convened. This event is an important step towards reaching the project's goals.
Distinguished dignitaries reaffirmed their unwavering commitment to the Project's mission during the inaugural session:
• Dr. Huyan Salih, Director of AU-IBAR, emphasized that the realization of the benefits of blue growth development hinges on addressing the challenges facing aquatic biodiversity and their ecosystems. She underscored AU-IBAR's dedication to driving action for the sustainable use and management of aquatic ecosystems and their associated biodiversity, expressing gratitude to the project's funders, SIDA.
• Dr. Senait Regassa, representing the Swedish Embassy, reaffirmed Sweden's steadfast support for the African Union's mission to preserve aquatic biodiversity within the blue economy. She highlighted Sweden's regional support and the imperative of gender equality in project initiatives.
• Dr. Ndiaga Gueya, from The FAO Regional Office in Africa, echoed the commitment to collaborate with AU-IBAR and other stakeholders to achieve the project's objectives. He stressed the importance of African leadership in initiatives contributing to the continent's growth and the necessity of collaboration in the blue economy.
• Representatives from Egypt, Cote D’Ivoire, Cameroon, Tanzania, and Eswatini shared their respective nations' perspectives and expectations for the project. Dr. Mohamed Al Ahmady Shafeek Al Zahaby from Center Laboratory For Aquaculture Research ( CLAR )– Agriculture Research Center ( ARC )- Ministry Of Agriculture and Land Reclamation Egypt discussed the challenges in the blue economy sector and invited collaboration with African countries on climate change and environmental management. Mr. Dagnogo Sidi Braima, on behalf the, Director General of the Environment, Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, Cote D’Ivoire, appreciated the invitation and encouraged collective efforts for project success, thanking AU-IBAR and the Swedish government. Dr. Hamisi Lussian Nikuli, Assistant Director Aquaculture (Mariculture) at the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries in Tanzania, thanked AU-IBAR for their continuous support and mentioned Tanzania's blue economy policy. Mrs. Phumzile Heather Mhlanga, Senior Agricultural officer responsible for Fisheries and Aquaculture, Ministry of Agriculture from the Kingdom of Eswatini commended AU-IBAR's invitation and discussed land pollution mitigation measures while praising regional cooperation efforts by AU-IBAR in the blue economy sector.
• Mr. Rodrick Kundu, the Fisheries and Blue Economy Secretary representing the Kenyan Government, officially inaugurated the meeting. He emphasized the pivotal role of the blue economy in Africa and the urgency of safeguarding its aquatic biodiversity. Dr. Kundu also highlighted the importance of environmental conservation, inclusivity, private sector involvement, and gender equality in project efforts, advocating for a comprehensive approach.
The meeting convened 34 participants, encompassing a wide spectrum of stakeholders. This inclusive gathering featured delegates from selected AU Member States, including Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Eswatini, Kenya, and Tanzania, as well as representatives from the East Africa Community, Abidjan Convention, Benguela Current Convention, and various technical partner institutions such as the FAO, SWAM, IOC/UNESCO, IUCN, and FCWC. Additionally, the meeting involved the ACECoR at the University of Cape Coast, the African Women Fish Processors and Traders Network (AWFISHNET), private sector representatives, experts from the Swedish Embassy to the African Union and SIDA, and AU-IBAR. This diverse assembly ensured a comprehensive and impactful discussion.
Dr. Alberta Sagoe, the Gender Policy and Strategy Expert of the Project, outlined the core objectives of the gathering. The meeting agenda included:
• Reviewing and endorsing recommendations from the second project technical committee.
• Evaluating the progress achieved since the project's inception.
• Scrutinizing the budget and expenditures.
• Deliberating on the 2023-2024 work plan.
• Formulating a communique and crafting meeting recommendations. She also presented the progress made in implementing recommendations from the 1st PSC Meeting.
In the first technical session, moderated by Dr. Patrick Karani, participants engaged in pivotal discussions. Mr. Eric Nadiope presented the carefully curated recommendations from the Second Project Technical Committee for adoption by the Steering Committee, initiating a constructive dialogue. Dr. Alberta Sagoe emphasized the project's essence, 'Conserving Aquatic Biodiversity in the African Blue Economy,' highlighting its significance in the broader context of environmental preservation and sustainable development.
Mr. Joel Mokenye shed light on the project's notable achievements since its inception, emphasizing the progress made in this critical endeavor. Ms. Catherine Oduor presented the budget and expenditure report, ensuring transparency and fiscal accountability. Subsequently, Mr. Oroko Kennedy outlined the comprehensive work plan for 2023-2024, providing a strategic roadmap for future project activities. The session concluded with lively discussions, fostering collaboration and the exchange of valuable insights.
The afternoon session resumed with the presentation of the Steering Committee Meeting Communique, Recommendations, and Adoption. This was followed by a spirited discussion where delegates had the opportunity to refine the project's direction further.
As the meeting concluded, a series of closing statements were delivered:
In concluding the meeting, Phumzile Heather Mhlanga from the Kingdom of Eswatini expressed gratitude on behalf of all delegates. A delegate representing the Republic of Cote D’Ivoire delivered closing remarks on behalf of the AU Member States. The Director of AU-IBAR emphasized the meeting's crucial outcomes and the ongoing importance of collaborative efforts among stakeholders. Dr. Senait Regassa, speaking for the Swedish Embassy (SIDA), reaffirmed their support for the project, underlining the need for multiplying project outputs and engaging the private sector. The official closure was done by Mr. Rodrick Kundu, the Kenyan Government representative, who stressed the importance of collective actions in securing a vibrant and sustainable future for Africa's aquatic ecosystems and blue economy. He also highlighted the urgency of efficient communication with local communities.
The Second Project Steering Committee Meeting marked significant progress, recommitting all parties to the protection of aquatic biodiversity and sustainable development in Africa's blue economy. The success of Africa's aquatic ecosystems and the continent's blue economy hinges on the collaborative efforts of project stakeholders to achieve their shared objectives.