Members' Research Service By / July 12, 2017

Blue economy in Africa: initiatives, prospects and issues

Written by Eric Pichon and Anne Vernet, Harnessing the oceans’ resources in a sustainable manner is the ‘new frontier of…

Fotolia / HandmadePictures

Written by Eric Pichon and Anne Vernet,

Blue economy in Africa: initiatives, prospects and issues
Fotolia / HandmadePictures

Harnessing the oceans’ resources in a sustainable manner is the ‘new frontier of the African renaissance’ according to the African Union (AU). This ‘blue growth’ will only be achieved if ocean’s health and security at sea are won back. The AU has designed an ambitious maritime strategy, but its implementation suffers from African states’ disputes. The EU could foster this strategy, provided the cooperation with Africa goes beyond security and migration aspects.

This selection of resources complements our ‘At a Glance’: A maritime strategy for Africa (July 2017)

1. Overview

The main sectors concerned by the blue economy in developing countries are: fishing, shipping, shipbuilding, tourism, resource extractions.

In Africa, South Africa , Mauritius and the Seychelles have already adopted a blue economy strategy.

In October 2016 the African Union’s Extraordinary Summit on Maritime Security and Safety and Development in Africa took place in Lomé, Togo, where an AU Charter on Maritime Security, Safety and Development (also referred to as the Lomé Charter) was signed on 15 October [the document is not yet available online ]. This follows on the African Union’s 2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime (AIM) Strategy (2012) which provides a broad framework for the protection and sustainable exploitation of the African Maritime Domain for wealth creation.

Africa’s blue economic future , Institute for security Studies (ISS)

This short video provides an overview of what is at stake: security and sustainable development.

Blue Economies: Turning Sunken Costs into Sunken Treasure Tim Walker, ISS Africa , 8.06.2016 .

Environmental protection is the best way to ensure Africa’s maritime domain becomes a source of health, wealth and prosperity.

Painting Africa’s economy blue , Essam Yassin Mohammed, International Institute for Environment and Development, 22.07.2015

The first official day of the decade for African Seas and Oceans provides a timely reason to think about how marine resources could better contribute to Africa’s economy.

2. Initiatives and prospects

Main features of the African maritime strategy

Africa’s Blue Economy Policy Handbook , UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), April 2016.

Africa’s “Blue word” is made of vast lakes and rivers and an extensive ocean resource base. The Blue Economy can play a major role in Africa’s structural transformation, sustainable economic progress, and social development. The largest sectors of the current African aquatic and ocean based economy are fisheries, aquaculture, tourism, transport, ports, coastal mining, and energy. This Policy Handbook, offers a step by step guide to help African member States to better mainstream the Blue Economy into their national development plans, strategies, policies and laws. The Blue Economy approach is premised in the sustainable use, management and conservation of aquatic and marine ecosystems and associated resources.

Africa’s Blue Economy: An opportunity not to be missed , Development matters, OECD, 7.06.2016
Blog post by Carlos Lopes, UN Under Secretary General & Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa.

“It is forecasted that the annual economic value of maritime-related activities will reach 2.5 trillion euros per year by 2020, while the International Energy Agency estimates that renewable energy from the ocean has a power potential sufficient to provide up to 400% of current global energy demand. Yet Africa’s blue potential remains untapped.”


The value of African fisheries . FAO Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Circular 1093, 2014, 82 p.

Trade in sustainable fisheries and aquaculture UNCTAD, Trade and Environment Review 2016: Fish Trade, 20.12.2016

This note provides a forecast on how the fish and world trade regimes will look like five years after the implementation of SDGs in 2035. Three main trends are likely to affect the supply and demand of fish and fish products. In the trade realm, these trends point to a selective and incremental incorporation of marine live and fish conservation measures in the multilateral trading system, and regional trade agreements in particular. By 2035, wild marine catch will grow only slightly while aquaculture products will fill the gaps in order to address increasing demand. Moreover, tariffs on fish and fish products will be lower, non-tariff measures will continue to proliferate while some unfair practices such as subsidies and IUU fishing activities will be addressed at the multilateral and regional levels.

Maritime security

Fulfilling the Promise of the Lomé Maritime Summit ISS Africa, 21.10.2016.

The Lomé Charter can boost Africa’s blue economies, but states must implement its provisions. A groundbreaking new maritime document, which has been considered and discussed at the highest level, has the potential to truly boost the protection of Africa’s coasts and seas and to create healthy and sustainable blue economies.

The blue economy and maritime security in Africa: why now? Essam Yassin Mohammed, International Institute for Environment and Development, 13.10.2016

As a high-level conference on protecting Africa’s seas and oceans gets under way, Essam Yassin Mohammed reflects on the multiple dimensions to maritime security in Africa’s coastal regions.

Safeguarding Africa’s Seaports to Safeguard Its Economies ISS Africa, 26.07.2016

25 July marked the African Day of Seas and Oceans. Urgent attention must be paid to how seaports can be made less porous.

Trade and Marine industry

Taking Back the Seas: Prospects for Africa’s Blue Economy , Ruppel, Oliver, and David Biam , ISS Paper, 25.02.2016

This paper evaluates the potential economic and regulatory effects of the AU’s proposed laws on maritime transport. International shipping is driven by fierce competition. The history of maritime trade within Africa’s coastal waters has been characterised by foreign exploitation since the early colonial era. Today, the African Union (AU), through its 2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy, plans to implement new cabotage laws to finally liberate the continent’s maritime transport industry from foreign dominance. However, certain barriers must first be overcome, including increasing the capacity and efficiency of Africa’s maritime industry. This paper evaluates the AU’s proposed introduction of pro-African cabotage laws focusing on their economic potential and regulatory implications. It also highlights core challenges posed by Africa’s struggle for greater economic liberation of its coastal waters.

3. Main issues and challenges

Piracy, Illegal fishing

The State of Maritime Piracy 2016 . Oceans Beyond Piracy, 2017,

Latest report by Oceans Beyond Piracy analyzing maritime piracy: human cost, economic cost, and business models like robbery, kidnapping, hijacking.

Fish Wars: How Fishing Can Start and Stop Conflict . Secure Fisheries, 3.03.2017.

Is the world on the brink of interstate fish wars? Probably not: a large-scale military dispute is not likely to erupt over tuna, and conflict over fish affected by climate change could occur over a long time horizon. But as fish become more difficult to find, understanding the links between fisheries and violent armed conflict is increasingly important.

Western Africa’s missing fish: The impacts of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and under-reporting catches by foreign fleets , ODI, June 2016

Overfishing in the world’s oceans is at the centre of a crisis of sustainability. Nowhere is that crisis more visible than in Western Africa. Current rates of extraction are driving several species towards extinction while jeopardising the livelihoods of artisanal fishing communities across a broad group of countries, including Senegal, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Mauritania. Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is at the heart of the problem. Drawing on a unique satellite tracking database, this report presents new evidence of the scale and pattern of IUU fishing. Infographics.

Millions of Africans face food insecurity as fish stocks diverted to make animal feed for Western factory farms , The Independent, 9.09.2016

Farmed chicken, salmon and pork are all reared using fishmeal, and as global demand for cheap meet rises, producers are casting their net wider to obtain fish for animal feed, even effectively taking them from the mouths of people in West Africa.

The Global Ocean Grab: A Primer , Transnational institute, 2.09.2014

This primer unveils a new wave of ocean grabbing, answering the most important questions about the mechanisms that facilitate it and the impacts on people and the environment.

Africa’s blue revolution in turbulent waters , Africa Renewal, August 2014

Africa loses billions of dollars each year to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, according to a 2014 report by the Africa Progress Panel, an advocacy group on sustainable development in Africa led by Kofi Annan, a former United Nations secretary-general. Titled Grain, Fish, Money: Financing Africa’s Green and Blue Revolutions , the report states that Africa’s mismanagement and neglect of the fishery sector result in huge financial losses. Of the $23 billion that the fishing companies in the US make each year, $1.3 billion comes from West Africa, it states.

Border disputes

Maritime Boundaries Delimitation and Dispute Resolution in Africa . Beijing Law Review , 8, 55- 78.

Despite the provisions of UNCLOS , Africa has several unresolved maritime boundary disputes. In this light, this article aims to exa mine the African situation, and discuss the challenges involved in the delimitation and management of maritime bound a- ries in Africa. This article presents the issues, causes, essence and the security imperative of maritime boundary disputes in Africa

Kenya-Somalia Maritime Dispute: Whose Sea Is It Anyway? RFI, 20.09.2016
The International Court of Justice in The Hague on Monday began a week of hearings on the long-running dispute between Kenya and Somalia over their maritime border. At stake is a narrow triangle in the Indian Ocean. Determining who owns it may decide the fate of potentially lucrative oil and gas reserves.

Climate change

Ocean, Environment, Climate Change and Human Mobility Environmental Migration Portal, 2016

The impacts of climate change on the ocean and marine ecosystems profoundly affect human livelihoods and mobility. Recognizing the need to respond to the challenges arising from the interaction between ocean and marine ecosystem change and human migration and displacement, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Ocean and Climate Platform (OCP) are working together to bring visibility to this issue and promote concrete action to address these challenges. This document, prepared jointly by IOM and OCP, provides an overview of the following: (a) links between ocean, climate change and human mobility; (b) key challenges that countries, communities and individuals face; and (c) possible solutions to address them.

COP22: Protect Fish Stocks to Build Climate Resilience Along African Coasts , Africa Progress Panel, 15.11.2016

The governments of Mauritania, the Seychelles… have been helping to establish the Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI) since early 2015, an initiative to protect fish stocks through the twin principles of transparency and participation. The FiTI is a global multi-stakeholder initiative, in which countries seek to shed a light on access to fish resources – who has access, what are the (financial) conditions, and how much is extracted?

West Africa Is Being Swallowed by the Sea , Foreign policy, 21.10.2016

Encroaching waters off the coast of Togo, Ghana, Mauritania, and others are destroying homes, schools, fish, and a way of life.

Africa: Rising Sea Temperatures Are Shaping Tropical Storms in Southern Africa , The conversation, 16.02.2017

Studies over the past half century in southern Africa show that there’s been a southward shift in tropical cyclones in the region, and in particular the location of their landfall. One study looked at the records of tropical cyclones in South East Africa going back 66 years. Another investigated 19th century tropical cyclone landfalls in Madagascar .

Review of the Projected Impacts of Climate Change on Coastal Fishes in Southern Africa Potts, W.M., Götz, A. & James, N. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries (2015) 25: 603.

The coastal zone represents one of the most economically and ecologically important ecosystems on the planet, none more so than in southern Africa. This manuscript examines the potential impacts of climate change on the coastal fishes in southern Africa and provides some of the first information for the Southern Hemisphere, outside of Australasia.

4. EU initiatives

Maritime strategy, in relation with African countries

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions Developing the international dimension of the Integrated Maritime Policy of the European Union COM/2009/0536 final, 15.10.2009

Integrated Maritime Policy in the Mediterranean , European Commission, Maritime Affairs.

Though the Mediterranean Sea is bounded by over 20 countries, much of it lies outside national jurisdictions. Cooperation is therefore essential to

  • manage maritime activities,
  • protect the marine environment & maritime heritage
  • prevent & combat pollution
  • improve safety & security at sea
  • promote blue growth & job creation.

Security at sea and migration management

EU strategy in the Horn of Africa , EPRS At a Glance, 7.12.2016

The Horn of Africa countries are plagued by violence and insecurity. A hub on the Red Sea trade and migration route, bordering the unstable areas of the Sahel and central Africa, the region is of strategic interest for the European Union. The EU has adopted an integrated framework to align various external policy programmes and instruments aimed at securing the region. However, strong antagonisms between the states concerned add to the difficulty of achieving a coordinated approach.

Critical maritime Routes programme , funded by the EU

The 2014 EU Maritime Security Strategy gave new impetus for programmes focused on maritime security. Setting out the strategic interests of the EU and member states in the global maritime domain, it outlines the need to identify and address maritime security challenges. It also engages with the need for a comprehensive and cross-sectoral European wide approach.

Council conclusions on the Gulf of Guinea – Action Plan 2015-2020 , 16 March 2015

European Union Tackling Illegal Fishing in Western Africa by Supporting Regional Cooperation DG Europeaid – International Cooperation and Development, European Commission”, 5.09.2016

A four-day campaign co-funded by the EU against illegal fishing off the West Africa Coast has shown concrete results in tackling illegal fishing in Western Africa. From 28 August to 1 September 2016, the West African Sub-Regional Fisheries Commission (SRFC) organised a regional operation at sea to control vessels fishing in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of Gambia, Senegal, Guinea Bissau and Guinea. For the first time, the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) has taken part in such an exercise.

The Maritime Dimension of CSDP: Geostrategic Maritime Challenges and their Implications for the European Union , DG EXPO, European parliament, 2013

This study analysis the impact that the changing maritime security context is having on the EU’s maritime neighbourhood and along the EU’s sea lines of communications (SLOCs) and takes stock of the EU’s existing policies and instruments in the maritime security domain. Based on this analysis, the study suggests that the EU requires a comprehensive maritime security strategy that creates synergies between the EU’s Integrated Maritime Policy and the maritime dimension of CSDP and that focuses more comprehensively on the security and management of global maritime flows and sea-based activities in the global maritime commons.

Sustainable fisheries partnership agreements

Sustainable fisheries partnership agreements , European Commission, Fisheries

New Fishing Deals with Mauritania and Liberia Approved , EurActiv, May 11, 2016
The European Parliament has approved new fisheries agreements with Mauritania and Liberia. Spain is set to be a big beneficiary of the plans.

New Fisheries Agreement and Protocol between the EU and Liberia EPRS Plenary at a Glance, Popescu, Irina, 4 May 2016.

The first-ever EU fisheries agreement with Liberia and its associated implementation protocol were signed and entered into provisional application in December 2015. Their conclusion is now subject to approval by the European Parliament in a plenary vote.

EU-Mauritania Fisheries Agreement: New Protocol , EPRS Plenary at a Glance, Popescu, Irina, 2 May 2016.

Of all the fisheries partnership agreements currently in force, the EU-Mauritania agreement is by far the most significant in economic terms. A new protocol, setting the details for implementation of the agreement over the coming four years, was signed and entered into provisional application in November 2015. Parliament’s consent is now required for the conclusion of this protocol.

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