The world's oceans and seas contain untold wealth that is ripe for sustainable exploitation. This was the message of the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference, held in November in Nairobi. Africa, surrounded by some of the richest waters in the world, was very much in the spotlight during this vital forum. Wanjohi Kabukuru attended.
For three days, the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference (SBEC) lifted Africa out of the periphery into the centre of the emerging Blue Economy Earadigm. "It is in Africa that we ave managed to add the word 'sustainable' into the harnessing of our oceans and water bodies for economic progress," said Peter Thomson, a diplomat from Fiji and the UN Special Envoy for the Ocean. "From now on," he added, "Africa will not be missing in the global discussions on oceans." Various speakers at this globally vital conference emphasised Africa's 'island' aspect, as it is surrounded by three oceans and two seas: the Indian Ocean to the east, the Red Sea to the north east, the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Antarctic Ocean to the south.
The fact that despite this great geographical advantage Africa has never managed to fully capitalise on its maritime assets formed the nucleus of considerable discussion during the event, held at a packed Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi, Kenya's capital.
In attendance were 8,000 delegates from 134 countries, including seven heads of state and government and 84 ministers, as well as senior representatives from academia, the private sector and international conservation agencies.
By the time the conference closed, pledges totalling $172bn formed the core part of the Nairobi Statement of Intent on Advancing the Global Sustainable Blue Economy.
These pledges cover areas such as marine protection, plastic waste management, maritime security, fisheries development, biodiversity, climate change adaptation, coastal infrastructure, and the establishment of blue bonds.
Among other areas of focus, the conference brought together business sector leaders, marine park managers, scientists, coastal communities and government figures with the aim of distilling policy to drive the new approaches that seek to leverage on the bounty offered by the Blue Economy.
"Maybe a good start is to rethink the concept of the blue economy as a virtuous circle where the oceans provide services and resources, and economic actors in turn invest in marine observation...