Thirty-eight of the fifty-four African States are coastal States. More than 90 percent of Africa’s imports and exports are conducted by sea and some of the most strategic gateways for international trade are in Africa, underscoring the geopolitical importance of the region. Maritime zones under Africa’s jurisdiction total about 13 million square kilometers including territorial seas and approximately 6.5 million square kilometers of the continental shelf. Mauritius with its 1850 square kilometers is one of the smallest countries in Africa and in the world. However with its territorial waters, it becomes a country with 1.9 million square kilometers, the size of South Africa. Therefore, we have another Africa under the sea. Quite rightly, the African Union calls the Blue Economy the “New Frontier of African Renaissance”.

Africa's Ocean

Africa’s aquatic and marine spaces are an increasingly common topic of political discourse; its natural resources have remained largely underexploited but are now being recognized for their potential contribution to inclusive and sustainable development. This “Blue word” is more than just an economic space— it is part of Africa’s rich geographical, social, and cultural canvas. Through a better understanding of the enormous opportunities emerging from investing and reinvesting in Africa’s aquatic and marine spaces, the balance can be tipped away from illegal harvesting, degradation, and depletion to a sustainable Blue development paradigm, serving Africa today and tomorrow. If fully exploited and well managed, Africa’s Blue Economy can constitute a major source of wealth and catapult the continent’s fortunes.

The Economy

Africa’s economies continue to grow at remarkable rates, including through the exploitation of the rich endowment of land-based natural resources and commodity exports. Converting this growth into quality growth, through the generation of inclusive wealth, within environmental limits and respecting the highest social considerations, requires bold new thinking. It also involves the creation of jobs for a population on the rise. The Blue Economy offers that opportunity. For example, the International Energy Agency estimates that ocean renewable energy has a power potential sufficient to provide up to 400% of global current energy demand. Other estimates indicate that in 2010 the total annual economic value of maritime related activities reached 1.5 trillion euro. It is forecasted that by 2020, this figure will reach 2.5 trillion euro per year. Surely, Africa needs holistic and coherent strategies to harness this potential.
Source: Nor-Shipping

Biotic resources allow Africa to expand its fishing, aquaculture and mariculture sectors, and to foster the emergence of vibrant pharmaceutical, chemical and cosmetics industries. The extraction of mineral resources and the generation of new energy resources provide the feedstock to resource-based industrialization and places Africa at the center of global trade in value-added products, no longer a supplier of unprocessed raw materials. Central to this agenda, is the need to modernize Africa’s maritime transport and logistics services, its port and railway infrastructure, improve its reliability and efficiency with the view to seamless link the continent’s economies to national, regional and global value chains as well facilitate tourism and recreation activities, just to name a few.

Africa has salutary examples of maritime, riparian and river-based cooperation and dispute settlement. This includes examples of maritime and transnational aquatic boundary delimitation and demarcation. A collaborative approach for the development of the Blue Economy will create the foundation for the formulation of shared visions for transformation. The Blue Economy development approach is an integral part of the African Agenda 2063.

Culled from foreword in “Africa’s Blue Economy: A policy handbook”. Copyright 2016 – Economic Commission for Africa. Author: Carlos Lopes, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ECA.