January 28, 2019
Africa Pins Its Hopes on the Blue Economy: Leveraging Ocean Resources for Economic Growth

The Blue Economy is a concept used to promote sustainable economic growth through oceans, rivers, lakes and other water resources. This dual idea of environmental protection and development is getting attention in Africa.

The importance of the Blue Economy was stressed at the 6th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) held in 2016 as there are more than 40 coastal countries in Africa. The discussion was furthered at the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference 2018, which was held last November in Nairobi, Kenya. JICA is supporting the Blue Economy in Africa through cooperation for fisheries, maritime transport and logistics infrastructure development.

Dispatching a fisheries development expert to the major fishing country, Morocco; bringing stable livelihoods for fishing communities

A fishing village on the Moroccan shore

Morocco lies on the northwest Atlantic coast of Africa, and is blessed with rich marine resources. It is the largest producer of fish and exporter of fishery products in Africa. Fisheries products represent about 10 percent of the country's total export value and have created 660,000 jobs when ancillary industries are included. On the other hand, Morocco has a considerable number of small-scale or artisanal fishers who remain socially and economically vulnerable.

"Fishing is often the last resort for employment for the rural poor. Fish is also an affordable and nutritious option for a person’s daily diet, so they play an important role in food and nutritional security."

So says Expert Shunji Sugiyama, whom JICA dispatched to the Moroccan Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Rural Development, Water and Forests as a fisheries development expert in May 2017. To adequately manage marine resources and achieve sustainable fisheries development, he is supporting the ministry's efforts to encourage small-scale fishers and develop aquaculture. He is also supporting South-South cooperation by Morocco to countries in sub-Saharan Africa in which Morocco is sharing its experiences of fisheries sector development that it achieved in partnership with Japan.

JICA Expert Shunji Sugiyama interviews villagers in a Moroccan fishing village.

At the beginning of his term, Mr. Sugiyama spent several months visiting 25 or so fishing villages to learn about the actual situation of rural fishing communities. The fishers told him about the difficulties of their livelihood. "If we can't go fishing because of injuries or bad weather, it will immediately result in a shortage of income," and "we often move along the coast to chase fish and stay away from our homes."

Mr. Sugiyama has re-affirmed the vulnerability of fishing-based rural livelihoods that rely on natural resources, and commented that, "When we talk about fisheries management, we tend to focus on the ‘fish,’ but what we really need to manage is ‘the people’ who make a living on fisheries resources.” During his visit, he also observed some signs of positive development such as a willingness by women and youth groups to challenge the status quo and emerging economic activities in the fishing villages. He will nurture such “seeds of development” with a view to diversifying and stabilizing the livelihoods of fishing villages.

Development of 'the Gateway to East Africa' for quality growth

The new container terminal at the Port of Mombasa (foreground)

JICA has made continued efforts to improve port-related infrastructure, which will contribute to the Blue Economy. Through JICA's loan assistance and technical cooperation, a new container terminal was completed in March 2016 at the Port of Mombasa, which aims at promoting international trade to and from Africa.

The Port of Mombasa plays the important role of “the Gateway to East Africa” for Kenya as well as landlocked countries included in the East Africa Northern Corridor, i.e. Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan. However, since the existing container terminal was congested in the early 2000s due to a rapidly increasing trade volume of food, oil, natural gas and other commodities, ships were forced to wait offshore until a berth became available. Therefore, they were unable to smoothly berth, discharge and load their cargo.

The container handling capacity of the Port of Mombasa, including the new terminal, has been enhanced and is expected to reach 1.27 million TEU* per annum. As a result, the actual throughput grew from 1.08 million TEU in 2015 to 1.19 million TEU in 2017, or by about 11 percent.

Keiko Sano, the chief representative of the JICA Kenya Office, says, "Because of its nature as the gateway to the landlocked countries, enhancement of the Port of Mombasa is vital for the growth of not only East Africa but also of Africa as a whole. It also means that the promotion of comprehensive corridor development, including its hinterland, is inevitable."

In such major projects that involve many regions and stakeholders, a steady process of helping people reach an understanding of the projects is a key step. Cargo handling at the Port of Mombasa is predicted to exceed 2 million TEU per annum by 2022. To encounter this demand, JICA will continue to support the expansion of the port and road network to improve the connectivity of landlocked countries.

The area from the Port of Mombasa to the Northern Corridor that extends to Eastern African landlocked countries

More than 170 countries and agencies participate in the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference 2018

JICA Senior Advisor Shunji Sugiyama, left, gives a presentation.

People from more than 170 countries and international agencies attended the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference 2018 held in Nairobi last November. The three-day conference was sponsored by Kenya, Japan and Canada. Participants included ministers from countries in Asia, Oceania and Latin America, and State Minister for Foreign Affairs Masahisa Sato attended from Japan.

At one of the thematic panel discussions, Mr. Sugiyama, the JICA senior advisor, highlighted that, "The fisheries sector has a good potential for employment generation when integrated with tourism and local product development.”

At a plenary session of smart shipping and port development, Masahiko Furuichi, JICA senior advisor, took the podium and said, "As world maritime trade increases, ports in the global supply chain do experience significant congestion worldwide. Improving connectivity of ports and hinterland by inland railways and roads as a whole system enables smooth evacuation of containers, resulting in an easing of port congestion."

At a side event to the international conference Sustainable Blue Economy Conference 2018, JICA staff member Tatsuya Nikai, center, explains JICA's initiatives to Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who visited the JICA display booth.

Meanwhile, TICAD 7 will be held in Japan this year for the comprehensive development of Africa. The Sustainable Blue Economy Conference 2018 has further stressed the importance of the Blue Economy as TICAD 7 nears.

Discussion surrounding the Blue Economy is expected to accelerate.

*Twenty-foot equivalent unit, a unit that expresses the number of containers, converted to 20-foot containers


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