Embrace blue economy concept
Considerations by Southern African Development Community countries to embrace the concept of a blue economy should be encouraged given the recent discoveries of natural gas and oil reserves in some of the nations in recent years. The blue economy concept regards oceans as “development spaces” where co-ordinated planning integrates conservation, sustainable use, oil and mineral wealth extraction and marine transport.
We find SADC Executive Secretary, Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax’s call to coastal member states of the regional bloc to develop strategies that embrace the attributes of the blue economy quite relevant and requiring action from the concerned countries.
Addressing the Blue Economy Summit held in January in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, Tax urged SADC countries not to waste any time and take advantage of the co-operation that is envisaged to stem from the implementation of the region’s development programmes and the blue economy initiative.
According to Tax, the objectives of the blue economy initiative were in tandem with SADC development priorities and the region should therefore link its programmes and strategies with the objectives of the blue economy. Benefit will be derived from sustainable utilisation of oceanic resources.
“The concept of the blue economy, by focussing on coastal and oceanic states emphasising sustainable development of oceanic resources, brings about an important dimension of conceptualisation, strategy development, planning and monitoring of regional integration and development, in particular when considering our coastal and oceanic member states,” she said.
One of the reasons that tend to derail development on the African continent is the perpetual lagging behind of the continent in new concepts and technology advancements.
Hence, it is imperative that coastal and oceanic member states of the SADC regional bloc must take heed of Tax’s advice. The benefits will not be limited to the economies of the countries endowed with coasts and oceans but will cascade into the entire region.
There is no guessing that the SADC Executive Secretary’s counsel is inspired by the fact that the concept of the blue economy is relevant to the regional grouping because more than half of its 15 member states are coastal or oceanic countries. The eight SADC countries that are either oceanic or coastal are Angola, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa and the United Republic of Tanzania. These are some of the comparative advantages that the SADC region should use to spur economic development and integration. In recent years, encouraging discoveries of large reserves of oil and natural gas have been made in Mozambique, Namibia and Tanzania. Some of the discoveries have been termed game changers by commentators given the energy deficit that has been a perennial challenge for the region.
But it requires co-ordinated approaches and exploitation of the marine resources that are being discovered so that citizens in SADC countries enjoy the benefits of their natural resources. Exploration work must also continue because there are certainly more resources on our coasts and in our oceans.
It is in this vein that we applaud the move by the President of Seychelles, James Michel, to spearhead the campaign for the blue economy to come to fruition in the SADC region. Speaking at the Blue Summit, President Michel said the importance of the blue economy to humankind could not be underestimated given that more than 70 percent of the planet is covered by oceans and 90 percent of trade in the world is conducted by sea.
“Oceans transcend states. They connect us all to each other. And we must harness these connections for development not just enrichment,” President Michel told the Summit.
His call for countries “to ensure that the benefits from economic activity in our oceans translate into real benefits for our populations” resonates with calls by other regional leaders for the empowerment of people through the exploitation of natural resources found in areas they live.
The blue economy concept was introduced and debated during the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development conference held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 2012.