Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

The blue economy: Why neglected and under-explored in Africa?

Article from AFRIC Editorial
The Blue Economy is the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, to improve livelihoods and for jobs while preserving the health of the ocean ecosystem, says the World Bank; however, lakes, rivers and seas inclusive. Blue economic activities are; fishing, aquaculture, energy exploitation, tourism, transportation, port services, offshore mining and monitoring/surveillance.

Within the last ten years, Africa’s Blue economy has grown rapidly with close to 40 countries around coastal areas now involved actively. Developed countries are already actively involved in this but developing countries in Asia, Latin America and most evidently Africa, are concentrating more on transport, ports services and fishing when it concerns the latter. Apart from subsistence/commercial Agriculture, the next most carried out economic activity in Africa is mineral extraction/processing and less interest given to the Blue Economy.

Why the Blue Economy is neglected and under-explored in Africa.

– Lack of machinery/Infrastructure and Perceived Expensive

Most African countries rarely include the Blue Economy in their list of developmental economic activities because they think it is expensive and time consuming; and most of those who do prefer foreign investors. The most popular shortcut for some African Governments to raise funds nowadays to finance their projects in this sector is to borrow from the popular China and some other global economic giants. Some of these economic giants often grant this “favour” on conditions that they shall control, influence decisions and profit from a certain percentage of the yields.   

– Influence of colonial debt

Most African countries cannot exploit and engage fully into the Blue economy because they are limited by what has been termed “colonial debt”. According to this phenomenon, former colonialists control some percentage of the wealth that belongs to their former colonies in a bit to compensate themselves for their investment in Africa during the colonial period. It is no news that France has been widely accused in this light.

– Crises

Many African countries are busy spending a sumptuous quantity of their wealth and resources to resolve or combat crises (diseases, natural disasters, wars, civil unrests, corruption, drought and poverty); which is rendering them unable to invest fully in the Blue Economy. The Democratic Republic of Congo and most remarkably Liberia are few examples of natural rich African countries that lack full capacity to extract their natural resources ranging from timber, minerals to marine resources amongst many others. Liberia in particular has experienced a series of epidemics, pandemics (the most recent is the EBOLA) which are not only weakening her economy financially but also in terms of labour due to high death rate. Some other countries cannot exploit their water resources because they are either in a current or post conflict zone such as the Bakassi peninsula between Cameroon and Nigeria.

– Expensive to carry out waste management

It is demanding to sustainably exploit the Blue Economy because there are many non-profit making expensive activities; which must also be done alongside these activities to keep the aqua ecosystem healthy, thus discouraging African countries from neither engaging into this venture nor improving the existing ones. In the Niger Delta in Nigeria, 60% of petroleum extraction and processing is done by both private and foreign companies with minimal supervision from the Nigerian Government. These stakeholders have neglected to carry out waste management which has left the environment polluted and water contaminated due to oil spillage. The population of the Niger Delta started retaliating about two years back forming some armed groups that have been kidnapping the stakeholders and causing oil leakages. The Nigerian Government security forces have been cracking down their efforts but despite all this, the level of insecurity is steady rising here forcing some companies to withdraw their shares. Consequently, the government cannot engage in investment because there already are some environmental damages which will require a lot of finances to remedy for many years before any economic innovations are fostered.

– Prefer foreign investors

African countries prefer foreign investors in their Blue Economic sector because they believe these foreign investors have more finances, better strategies to run these activities and will have less to worry about except collecting high taxes. South Africa’s Marine economy is greatly controlled by British, Indian and American companies.

– Limited number of trained personnel

Apart from the fact that Africa does not only lack trained personnel in the Blue Economic sector, some activities in this sector such as fishing and aquaculture have been abandoned in the hands of individuals. When the government gets involved, it is either to collect taxes from these individuals or to bring in foreign investors so as to avoid the responsibility of financing the investments and other related activities; a mentality that is limiting the growth of the African Blue Economy.

African Countries with Remarkable Efforts in this sector

The United Nations (UN) organized a conference hosted by Kenya and co-hosted by Japan titled “The Sustainable Blue Economy Conference” from November 26th to 28th 2018 to discuss on how to sustainably improve and incorporate new technology in the African Blue Economic Sector for the betterment of the African Economy by 2030. In the course of the activity, a couple of issues were highlighted among which fishing noted to be neglected.

This economic weakness in Africa is evident to the global eye which has made the African Union (AU) to get involved through her Agenda 2063 for development. This is also included into the March 2016 hand book created by United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). This book states that the African Blue Economy could add close to $2 trillion to the international economy if expanded and create more 8 million jobs to add to the already existing 12 million. This idea was heartily bought by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya whose government has invested a lot in the Blue Economy and has kept urging his African counterparts to do same.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

Credit image : google image/illustration

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