THE Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) joint meeting of ministers of environment, natural resources and tourism is underway in Arusha.
The delegates to the meeting, among other things, seek to look at environmental trends and climate change; identify the implementation of conservation and environmental management strategies through the SADC Strategy on the Blue Economy and assess development in forestry, wildlife and tourism sectors.
SADC is moving towards a strategy to develop a thriving maritime economy and harness the full potential of sea-based activities in an environmentally sustainable manner. Oceans cover 72 percent of the surface of the blue planet and provide a substantial portion of the global population with food and livelihood.
Enhancing more than 80 percent of global trade, marine and coastal environments constitute a key resource for economic development. On the basis of the strategic location of the Indian Ocean region, emphasis is on growing the Blue Economy in a sustainable, inclusive and people-centred manner.
According to the World Bank (WB) the term ‘Blue Economy’ is understood as comprising the range of economic sectors and related policies that together determine whether the use of oceanic resources is sustainable.
An important challenge of the blue economy is thus to understand and better manage the many aspects of oceanic sustainability, ranging from sustainable fisheries to ecosystem health to pollution.
A second significant issue is the realization that the sustainable management of ocean resources requires collaboration across nation-states and across the public-private sectors and on a scale that has not been previously achieved. This realization underscores the challenge facing some states.
Ms Agnes Kayola the Director of the Regional Integration Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, says that the delegates are deeply scrutinizing the SADC Strategy on Blue Economy. There are issues related to fisheries, environment and climate change; tourism, regional aqua-culture strategy and action plan as well as SADC Aquatic Animal Health Strategy and Environment and Climate change Program).
Technical experts in the fields of environment, natural resources and tourism from the bloc meeting here since Friday have been discussing the matter and their proposals will later be deliberated by permanent secretaries from 16 member countries and eventually presented to ministers for decisions and instructions.
SADC member states are Angola, Botswana, Comoro, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South AFrica, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
As a country, a member state and chair of SADC, Tanzania is strategizing to tap the opportunities in the ‘Blue Economy’, given the fact that it is endowed with a long coastline in the Indian Ocean approximately 1,424 kilometres. It also incorporates several offshore islands, including Unguja, Pemba, and Mafia.
Experts from different departments of the government hold view that the country stands to benefit from such nature and it is ready to tap the opportunity for to unlock its potential and achieve sustainable development. Nine SADC member states border the coast and possess huge blue economy potential; These are Angola, the Union of Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa and Tanzania.
Mr Thomas Chali the Senior Environmental Officer with the Vice President’s Office says the experts will be looking at challenges facing the area and seek solutions. One of areas is how to achieve the ‘Blue Economy’ benefits.
Mr Chali names SADC environmental challenges to include degradation of land, lack of access to safe water for urban and rural residents; pollution; habitat loss and biodiversity; Destruction of aquatic organisms and deforestation; electronic waste; Use of unsafe chemicals and climate change, all of which have direct and indirect impact on the ‘Blue Economy’.
Member states therefore, says Mr Chali, are duty-bound to apply laws of the land as well as international law for issues crossing borders of one country to another; for example in oceans, hence they have to cooperate in one way or another to ensure that the objectives of the SADC Environmental Management for Sustainable Development Protocol is adhered to.
The officer says that member states are given the opportunity to cooperate with their partners and to apply domestic laws that will not affect the local legal system in managing environmental issues. Is the Protocol on implementation stage?
Mr Chali answers the question in the affirmative, saying the Protocol was adopted in August 2014, Tanzania has signed and is in the process of ratifying the same. He mentions strategies and projects for environmental conservation in SADC as including the one for biodiversity conservation; Controlling climate change and its effects; combatting desertification; Sustainable use of the sea economy and implementation of environment issues in the world.
The Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) is a comprehensive development and implementation framework guiding the Regional Integration agenda of the SADC over a period of 15 years (2005-2020) and the Blue Economy is enshrined therein.
It is designed to provide clear strategic direction with respect to SADC programs, projects and activities in line with the bloc’s common agenda and strategic priorities, as enshrined in the SADC Treaty of 1992. The ultimate objective of the plan is to deepen integration in the region with a view to accelerate poverty eradication and the attainment of other economic and non-economic development goals.
In 2015, at its Extra- Ordinary Summit in Harare, Zimbabwe, the SADC leaders adopted the SADC Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap 2015-2063. The Summit also directed the SADC Secretariat to develop a detailed and costed action plan for the implementation of the Strategy, design and develop an appropriate institutional framework to implement the strategy.
Pursuant to those decisions, it was resolved that the Costed Action Plan should cover Phase I and II of the Strategy, with specific focus on the first 15 years (2015-2030).
The Industrialisation Strategy was developed as an inclusive long-term modernization and economic transformation scheme that enables substantive and sustained raising of living standards, intensifying structural change and engendering a rapid catch up of the SADC countries with industrializing and developed countries.
Some member states such as South Africa, Seychelles and Mauritius have developed Blue Economy strategies and institutional mechanisms at national level. Investment in the development and upgrading of regional ports and maritime corridors is regarded as crucial in facilitating viable shipping networks as enablers for participation in regional and global value chains.
Ocean resources should be exploited in a sustainable manner to minimize the negative impact on environment; and that sustainable development of the ocean wealth should be supported by coherent planning, policies and regulatory frameworks.
The blue economy conceptualizes oceans as development spaces where coordinated planning integrates conservation, sustainable use, oil and mineral wealth extraction, marine transport and offshore hydrocarbons. The largest sectors of the African aquatic and oceanbased economy are fisheries, aquaculture, tourism, transport, ports, coastal mining, and energy.
The Namibian Blue Economy Strategy 2017-2022 addresses marine mining, tourism development, port infrastructure and services, and eradicate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, among other issues. The country is keen to promote the blue value chain, incorporating fisheries and tourism sectors and is already moving towards desalinating seawater for agriculture, domestic and industrial use.
Namibia allocated US$5 million for marine protection and research. The objective of the Blue Economy is to promote smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and employment opportunities within the Indian Ocean region’s maritime economic activities.
The Blue Economy is determined to initiate appropriate programs for: The sustainable harnessing of ocean resources; Research and development; Developing relevant sectors of oceanography; Stock assessment of marine resources; Introducing marine aquaculture, deep sea and long line fishing and biotechnology and human resource development, among others.