The national agendas of the African countries have been prioritizing the blue economy development since the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro. According to a report by Okan Partners and African CEO Forum, the African port sector has attracted billions of dollars in private investment even before 2012, between 2005 and 2019. Eminent scholars of the African blue economy have recently published an article in Frontiers of Marine Science about getting value for money from mega-scale ocean economy development projects while evading the grandiosity trap, which examines a successful blue economy initiative in Africa. The article analyses the question: how to balance development with ecological conversation and the inclusion of local communities.
The African continent lacks adequate knowledge and technological capacity to pursue blue growth. According to the study estimation of FAO in 2014, Africa loses $ 3.3 billion in potential earnings from its fisheries. The study also identifies the top-down approach in implementing ocean economy projects in Africa that often finishes up with the exclusion of coastal communities and destruction of their traditional livelihoods, as their economic gains are limited.
The research shows that the projects which tend to be people-centered and strive to overcome the marginalization of youth, women, and indigenous communities are successful and sustainable. An example of such a project is Vezo Community Fishers in Madagascar, where the fisherfolks community has created a locally managed blue economy initiative to address the decline of the octopus fishery. The project involves a Locally Managed Marine Area supported by government policies that can use traditional laws and indigenous knowledge in managing marine resources, and international donors have provided technical and material support. Additionally, to ensure the market access for the products of the locals, the inclusion of seafood export companies in the early stages of the project is essential. The East African coastline is home to similar projects with great success for marine resources conservation and coastal communities’ economic empowerment. They include Mikoko Pamoja (Mangroves Together) – which leverages international carbon markets – and Seaweed Farming, both projects in Kenya. The study finally urges a collaborative blue management approach that involves all the stakeholders to harvest benefits in developing the blue economy in Africa.