November 28, 2022

At the recent 2022 edition of the Nigeria International Maritime Summit (NIMS) in Lagos, the  Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Jaji Sambo, reiterated the Federal Government’s commitment to the sustainability of blue economy. In this report, OLUWAKEMI DAUDA looks at the opportunities and challenges associated with the objective.

The Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu  Sambo, reiterated the Federal Government’s commitment to sustainability of the blue economy.

The Minister spoke while declaring open the 2022 edition of the Nigerian International Maritime Summit (NIMS) at the Oriental Hotel in Lagos.

What is blue economy? 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.” The European Commission defines it as “All economic activities related to oceans, seas and coasts.”

What makes up the blue economy?

At its simplest, blue economy refers to the range of economic uses of oceans and coastal resources — such as energy, shipping, fishery, aquaculture, mining, and tourism. It also includes economic benefits that may not be marketed, such as carbon storage, coastal protection, cultural values and biodiversity.

Who benefits from the blue economy?

The African Union estimates that the blue economy currently generates nearly US$300 billion for the continent, creating 49 million jobs in the process.

These and other benefits—most notably food security, livelihoods, and biodiversity—are entirely dependent on the ocean’s health.

Harnessing its potential

Across the globe, harnessing the potential of the oceanic economy has emerged as a very essential development opportunity for optimum use of the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development.

Based on that, the Federal Government has embraced the emerging concept of blue economy as a mechanism to diversify the nation’s economy and realise ocean-based sustainable economic development.

However, investigation has shown that the country has explored only a few blue economy sectors such as fisheries, tourism, and port facilities, using traditional methods.

This, thus, presents opportunities as well as challenges in exploring the blue economy sectors, including fishery, maritime trade and shipping, energy, tourism, coastal protection, aquaculture, mining, maritime safety, and surveillance, addressing environmental changes and managing carbon discharge, in addition to introducing innovative technology for further development.

What Sambo said:

Speaking in Lagos, he said the NIMS summit was organised to capture important questions, opportunities and challenges associated with Nigeria’s quest for achieving a sustainable approach to harnessing the blue economy. Nigeria’s commitment to the sustainability of the blue economy, he said, is demonstrated by the adoption of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“To this end, an Expanded Committee on Sustainable Blue Economy in Nigeria (ECSBEN), under the leadership of no less a person than the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is driving the implementation process to perfect the agenda for a national strategy.

“This agenda amongst others is focused on providing an assessment of the current realities, opportunities and challenges for economic diversification and the growth of a sustainable blue economy.

“This includes the identification and review of relevant policies and institutional/capacity-building mechanisms. This is in addition to the identification of regional and cross-border partnerships necessary for the implementation of the blue economy plan, the relevant sectors, actors and linkages, and the development of a national action plan with an implementation strategy for the Nigerian blue economy,” he said

Opinions of the stakeholders:

Considering the above, stakeholders in the industry who spoke with our correspondent,  said they were in support of the Federal Government to develop a Blue Economy Strategic Framework (BESF) for harnessing oceanic resources, through a national  action plan.

The former President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANCLA), Prince Olayieola Shittu, said the country needed an integrated approach to the blue economy management that would guide policies going forward.

“It is critical that an implementation strategy which will include the overall timeline, a breakdown of priorities for each year along with the criteria for prioritisation be established. The strategy should also consider potential collaboration and partnership beyond government institutions, it must include critical stakeholders,” he said.

Contribution to poverty eradication:

There is no doubt about the fact that the oceans, seas and coastal areas contribute to poverty eradication because they form an integrated and essential component of the earth’s ecosystems and are critical to sustainable development.

They cover more than two-third of the earth’s surface and contain about 97 per cent of the planet’s water. The oceans also largely contribute to poverty eradication, by creating sustainable livelihoods. The oceans are crucial for global food security and health. They are also primary regulators of the global climate.

According to stakeholders, certain salient facts about the coastal areas are couched as follow: More than 200 countries have a coastline forming the basis for their claims to Territorial Waters and Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs); globally, about 40 per cent of the world population live within the “near coastal zone;  the coastal economy includes not only the sum of outputs from ocean resources, but also employment on or near the coast; making a disproportionately high contribution to the economies of many countries and to the global ocean economy; the coastal zones host most of the nation’s transport, commercial, residential and national defence infrastructure; the coasts sustain livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people in work that ranges from artisanal small-scale fisheries and aquaculture to transnational fishing, shipping, energy and tourism industries;  and sixteen out of 31 megacities in the world lie on the coast.

The coastal zones are the backbone to domestic and international supply chains that deliver marine goods and services upon which we increasingly rely; the increasingly urbanised societies are highly dependent upon coastal resources for food, energy, minerals and pharmaceuticals; our environments are intrinsically dynamic-shaped by the interaction of marine, terrestrial and atmospheric processes.

“Based on the above, the plan by the Federal Government to explore the blue economy would spur a wide range of economic activities; more particularly in the low-lying areas of the littoral states like Lagos, Rivers, Ondo, Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross-River, Delta and Ogun, among others. Lagos and Ondo, for instance, share coastal boundaries with the Atlantic Ocean,” said a maritime analyst, Segun Ogunsanu

Challenges:

Considering the economic importance of coastal states, there is no doubt about the fact that coastal ecosystems are undergoing profound changes, as they are challenged by climate change, threatened by urbanisation and poor upstream agriculture and extractive industry practices; increasing sprawl of coastal infrastructure and over-exploitation of coastal resources by local and international businesses.

Advantages:

The blue economy, a maritime lawyer, Mr. Muhammed Oluwaseyi, said could create jobs, spur economic growth, mitigate the impacts of climate change and help meet the food needs of a growing global population.

“From sustainable fisheries to maritime renewable energies, there are so many crucial areas where Nigeria will benefit from investing in the ocean and sea.”

Last line:

Now is the time for the federal and state governments to focus more on ocean resources to bring a larger population of Nigerians out of the woods.

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