The Blue Economy towards Realizing Agenda 2063

Globally, the asset of the Blue Economy is estimated at more than 25 trillion USD. It is also estimated that about 2 trillion USD are generated from fishing, aquaculture, shipping, tourism, and other marine-related activities. The African continent covers over 30 thousand kilometers of coastline that accommodate large Blue Economy sectors. Is Africa maximizing the benefits of the Blue Economy?

The Suez University held its first International Conference under the theme “Blue Economy to achieve the African Agenda 2063 and Sustainable Development” from 10th to 13th of September 2019 in Suez City, Egypt. More than two hundred representatives of African experts, decision-makers, research institutions, the media, and academia attended the Conference. Mr. David Kirugara, GMES and Africa Support Programme Management Unit, delivered a keynote speech on behalf of Dr Tidiane Ouattara of the African Union Commission.

Africa, the Blue Economy, and the African Union

Blue Economy includes activities such as fishing, tourism, maritime transport, and exploration of natural resources such as gas and oil, as well as emerging activities such as fish farming, the extractive activity of seabed minerals and marine biotechnology among other activities. Blue Economy aims to develop and promote economic growth, fight poverty and improve the quality of life based on the various wealth of the sea with striving for its sustainability and preservation.

For Africa, the Blue Economy is of particular importance, in light of the Continent's dependence on the sector for income and employment and as a key source of food, energy, health, leisure, trade, and transport. The Blue Economy, therefore, qualifies as the new frontline for Africa’s renaissance, offering huge potential for the continent’s growth, diversification, and development.

The African Union Commission has put in place a strategy: the Africa Integrated Maritime Strategy (2050 AIM Strategy). It was conceived as a tool to address Africa’s maritime challenges for sustainable development and competitiveness. The Strategy aims to foster more wealth creation from Africa’s oceans, seas, and inland waterways by developing a thriving maritime economy and realizing the full potential of sea-based activities in an environmentally sustainable manner. 

The African Union Blue Economy Strategy, still under development, is the long-term strategy to support sustainable growth in the marine and maritime sectors as a whole. It is the maritime contribution to achieving the goals of the African Union Agenda 2063, whose guiding vision is the AU Vision of "An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the International Arena". 

Under its first Aspiration, Agenda 2063 recognizes the huge potential of the Blue Economy as a catalyst of socio-economic transformation and takes into account the marine environmental protection that includes the methods and strategies to combat climate change.

Blue economy, Remote Sensing and, GMES and Africa

Information derived from Earth Observation satellites is critical inputs in managing marine and coastal resources. Earth observation satellites (EO) produces a wealth of data and information that support maritime authorities and decision-makers to carry out their operations and to take informed decisions. Marine EO applies to a wide range of ocean-related areas covering mapping and detection of potential fishing zones, Marine Protected Areas (MPA), harmful algal blooms, Oil spills etc. 

Mapping of environmental indicators for the detection of rich potential fishing zones using Earth Observation Satellite was one of the studies presented at the Suez Blue Economy Conference. The study explored the potential of developing robust routine service from satellite data to estimate the sea surface temperature and its effect on chlorophyll concentration that guides potential fishing zones. Such a study will help fishermen save fuel and ship time during their fishing expeditions. This information will also help experts develop fisheries forecast that will serve as an input in developing strategies for sustainable fisheries management.

The Blue Economy Conference also examined the idea of the Suez University hosting a Centre of Excellence for Fisheries and Aquaculture. There are strong arguments: Egypt is Africa’s leading producer of Nile Tilapia giving 66% of the total production in Africa through aquaculture. On a global scale, Egypt is the third world's largest producer of Nile Tilapia through aquaculture after China and Indonesia and 99% of the industry is owned by the private sector.

The African Union Commission through the GMES and Africa Programme is providing Earth Observation Marine and Coastal services to Eastern, Western, Northern, and Southern Africa’s coastal states. In Northern Africa, the lead consortia - the National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences (NARSS) - is the recipient of the GMES and Africa grant to implement the NafCoast project. This project aims at developing the capacity in EO marine services and generating robust marine services to support blue growth in this area. 

During the Blue Economy Conference, NARSS showcased the geoportal under development that will be one of the main sources of dissemination of their EO information products and services. The geoportal will provide a unified online platform for institutions and organizations in the Northern African countries to work collaboratively, exchange data and information on a regional level with full data protection and security.