Africa needs to put in place and implement a sustainable maritime governance system that will benefit the continent, according to experts attending the first Africa Blue Economy Forum (ABF)that was recently held in London on 8 June, to coincide with World Oceans Day. The Forum discussed economic contribution of oceans as per the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Paul Holthus, CEO of the World Ocean Council said “Africa presents major blue economy investment opportunities and also sustainable development challenges.”

Speaking on the panel discussing ‘The blue economy and ocean financing, Gregor Paterson-Jones, an expert on renewable energy investment, said: “The blue economy is not a uniform theme. The green economy is more easily defined, because it relates to ‘clean’ energies. The blue economy has multiple sectors with different types of investment opportunities. I always say blue is the new green.”

A strong focus on action was prevalent throughout discussions at ABEF. David Luke, Coordinator, African Trade Policy Centre, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, remarked: “Because the blue economy is such a broad concept, we need to bring coherence to it. As far as Africa is concerned, we need to be part of the change we see happening on the continent for the blue economy to have traction.”

Stanislas Baba, Minister-Counsellor to the President of the Togolese Republic, said: “Trade is an unexploited resource in Africa, but the blue economy has to be handled carefully. $350 million is lost each year in Africa due to illegal fishing. We can combat poverty by using our seas.”

Achieving a regional approach will not be easy, noted Yonov Frederick Agah, Deputy Director General, World Trade Organisation. “One of the problems we have in Africa is that we don’t like ideas,” he remarked. “”Blueprint programmes are lying on the shelf. Integration means letting go of certain things.”

Leila Ben Hassen, Founder and CEO of ABEF organiser, Blue Jay Communication, commented: “The blueeconomy is not simply the responsibility of the 38 African coastal countries, but is also highly relevant to their landlocked neighbours. We must all contribute to put the blue economy into action, to help reduce poverty, improve livelihoods and assure sustainable socio-economic development.”