FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BLUE ECONOMY
Written by Leadership
17th August, 2023
As Nigerians strive to adjust and adapt to the prevailing harsh economic situation, plagued with inflation at over 24 per cent, a lot of businesses, especially SMEs, are in extreme distress and struggling to survive.
The creation of a new Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a good step in the right direction and great news for the long struggling people of the country.
Here Are 5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Marine and Blue Economy:
1. According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the “sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of the ocean ecosystem.”
According to Ocean Panel, the oceans lead to greater prosperity. “It is an engine of livelihoods, transport, commerce and energy production. A healthy ocean contributes $1.5 trillion to the global economy annually and has an estimated asset value of $24 trillion.”
2. Over three billion people depend on ocean resources for their livelihood, and more than half of the oxygen we breathe come from the oceans. The African Union (AU) estimates that the blue economy currently generates about $300 billion for the continent, creating 49 million jobs in the process.
Whether it is the World Bank, the United Nations, or the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), they share the same view about ocean resources as the next great economic frontier of the world.
The UN defines blue economy as “a range of economic activities related to oceans, seas and coastal areas and whether these activities are sustainable and socially equitable.” The oceans cover two-thirds of the Earth’s surface and they are vital for planetary and human health – including combating climate change.
3. The blue economy concept always emphasises “sustainability” of the oceans, even as we exploit it for economic benefits. The economic activities in the traditional sector include fisheries, coastal leisure and tourism, ship and boat building, sea water desalination, offshore oil and gas, and shipping (marine transportation).
However, more recently, emerging sectors include blue carbon sequestration, aquaculture, seabed extractive activities, offshore renewable energy, deep sea mining, and biotechnology with opportunities for training and employment.
4. The economic potential and capacity of the blue economy within the resource-rich Gulf of Guinea is simply breathtaking, but accurate data analysis is required to monitor the sustainability of the oceans.
Nigeria, which is situated in the Gulf of Guinea, has a massive coastline of about 420 nautical miles and an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles. This translates to a maritime area of 290 square kilometres, about one-third of our land area (924 square kilometres).
Since Africa’s ocean wealth is estimated at about $300 billion, just imagine what will accrue to Nigeria annually if we get our act right. The Maritime Stakeholders Forum has been asking for a review of the enabling laws in the maritime sector to ignite the blue economy and bring it to life.
According to Rear Admiral Atakpa, a leading Nigerian expert on the blue economy, we must optimise the benefits of traditional and emerging sectors in a sustainable way by using an important tool known as “Marine Spatial Planning (MSP).”
“The MSP is considered the most important element in the establishment of a functional and virile blue economy, and the most critical requirement next to maritime security,” Real Admiral Atakpa added.
“The MSP”, he continued, “is the overarching administration of critical ocean-based and ocean-related maritime stakeholders with respect to who gets and does what, where, when, why and how, in a given maritime space for the purpose of achieving ocean sustainability through a well-coordinated use of the ocean space in a manner devoid of inter-sectoral conflict and rivalry.”
Rear Admiral Atakpa also said the sustainability component of the blue economy will avert resource recklessness and it will enhance Nigeria’s signatory commitments to the United Nations Development Goals in the context of Goal No 14 which is “Life below Water.”
The MSP is to be administered by a Marine Spatial Planner (an expert in ocean affairs) that would effectively be the minister in the proposed ministry.
5. Properly harnessed, this ministry will boost Nigeria’s revenue, significantly reduce budget deficits – at a time we are using over 90 percent of our revenue to service our debts. It has just been reported that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) owes JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs $7.5 billion in what it classified as “securities lending.”
There’s also another liability of $6.3 billion owed in foreign currency forwards (forex obligations CBN needs to meet to foreign investors), bringing the total debt obligation to $13.8 billion that has reduced the reserves of CBN. This report is contained in its audited financial statement as at December 2022 published on its website.
Stakeholders in the maritime sector have also asked President Tinubu to create a separate ministry for the sector out of the Ministry of Transportation as a deliberate policy for economic prosperity.
Nigeria’s maritime industry is large enough to have its own ministry dedicated to blue economy activities.
At the moment, the different blue economy sectors operate in silos as departments and agencies under different ministries with varying understanding of, and commitment to, the ocean resources. For example, fisheries is under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development while shipping is under the Ministry of Transportation.
Offshore renewable energy and deep sea mining are yet to be fully assimilated within the Energy Commission, and Ministry of Mines and Steel Development respectively. The same thing applies to marine tourism.
Thus, the Ministry of Blue Economy will serve as a one-stop shop ministry for all maritime and maritime-related departments and agencies in Nigeria for the purpose of achieving ocean sustainability, and eradicating the present and routine duplication of functions. The current situation also engenders budgetary duplication and wastages.
Nigeria, South Africa, Madagascar, Kenya, and Somalia are the five African countries with blue economy potential.
The Ministry of Blue Economy will warehouse all maritime departments, agencies, and stakeholders.
The strategic goals of the ministry will include but not limited to bringing all maritime and maritime related departments under one roof for effective ocean administration, transparency and accountability; eliminating the duplication of functions and rivalries between agencies and departments, and promoting and maximising ocean sustainability.
The proposed ministry will serve as a dependable source of alternative revenue – away from oil. The minister must therefore be a professional who is knowledgeable about blue economy management and familiar with marine spatial planning which will be at the core of the ministry’s mandate.
The blue economy concept cannot operate without the expertise of the Nigerian Navy. Apart from providing hydrographic support in critical baseline data on which all other sectors of the blue economy are to be built, it will also ensure credible maritime security and enforcement of marine spatial planning directives in compliance with Step 8 of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC)/UNESCO 10-step guide to MSP.