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African leaders vow to support blue economy

George Kebaso @Morarak

African leaders have announced major commitments to advance water economy from just a transport and fishing venture to a revolutionary initiative for the development of livelihoods.

From setting aside land for shipping lines, promoting policies in the maritime industry to training more women to participate in the blue economy, the Heads of state attending the global blue economy conference in Nairobi also emphasised the need for protection of the sector.

The leaders cautioned on the ever-increasing threats facing oceans and other water bodies. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni called on governments attending the three-day sustainable blue economy forum to find ways of highlighting the linkage between the survival of species and what is being discussed at the event.

He said it is becoming clear that the threats facing the maritime sector in Africa are perpetrated by people who don’t respect nature.

Local wetlands

“The blue economy is a matter of survival for us. Our oceans give us rain, fish (main food for many), afford us transport between and within countries and give us energy. Interfering with wetlands, forests, over-fishing needs to be condemned because it is interrupting livelihoods,” Museveni added.

He said, for instance, in Uganda 60 per cent of the rain comes from moisture originating from the oceans, while 40 per cent comes from the local wetlands and rivers, and therefore a need to protect these resources.

“We are trying to bribe our people who got into the wetlands and telling them to get out. It is a bribe, but it is better than using crude methods,” he added. Museveni admitted that he had taken interest to understand what the blue economy was about. But now that he has understood that it means livelihoods, going forward his government will put in place legal strategies to address illegal fishing.

The leaders also acknowledged that many of the ocean systems were under immense stress. They said the ability of these systems acting as climate regulators and as a key engine for economic growth and sustainable development, had progressively been eroded. Subsequently, Mozambican President, Filipe Nyusi said his government is focusing on raising awareness in the society because communities are the best keepers of nature.

Marine resources

“My government has prioritised the protection of the country’s marine resources by instituting a strict maritime law enforcement. What is remaining is to bring more people on board into maritime activities to create economic opportunities for them,” he added.

Seychelles President, Danny Faure committed to training more women to join the blue economy and related maritime sectors. “As the champion for the Blue Economy in Africa, I am proud to commit Seychelles’ effort to work with all Africa Union member states and partners to fully integrate the Blue Economy policies and programmes on our continent,” he said.

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