Positioning marine and blue economy for productivity

The marine and blue economy means the sustainable use of ocean resources and opportunities around oceans for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs creation while preserving marine health and coastal ecosystems. It encompasses various economic sectors, including fisheries, aquaculture, tourism, marine, renewable energy, maritime transportation, security and coastal infrastructure development, among others. A marine and blue economy recognises the importance of oceans and their resources to the global economy and society. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the ocean economy contributed $1.5tn to the global economy in 2010, and is projected to double by 2030.

However, unsustainable practices and over exploitation of ocean resources can lead to environmental degradation and negatively impact the long-term sustainability of the ocean economy. While countries like Norway, United States, Ireland, United Kingdom, Canada, Seychelles, Morocco, Mauritania etc are maximising the use of the marine and blue economy, most African countries are not. Additionally, a marine and blue economy recognises the importance of addressing climate change, reducing marine pollution, and enhancing ocean resilience to protect marine ecosystems and ensure their sustainability.

Several organisations and initiatives promote the global blue economy, including the World Ocean Council, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14 which is “life below water”, and the European Union’s Blue Growth Strategy. These initiatives aim to promote the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth while protecting the environment and ensuring social equity. According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the “sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of the ocean ecosystem.” The European Commission defines it as “all economic activities related to oceans, seas and coasts.”

Growing poverty in Nigeria

There are many businesses ahead for the Federal Ministry of Marine and Blue economy. It is also hoped that all the states that border the ocean will domesticate this federal ministry. On the commemoration of the World Water Day 2022, UNICEF raised concerns about Nigeria, where an estimated 70 per cent of water at the point of consumption is contaminated. The UN agency said the contamination was responsible for Nigeria having the world’s highest number of deaths from waterborne diseases among children under five years old. In 2020 and 2021, Nigeria’s National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency recorded 822 combined oil spills, totalling 28,003 barrels of oil spewed into the environment. Those who depend on farming and fishing in the South-South region have felt a direct impact on their livelihoods and residents have reported myriad health and economic issues.

Nigeria’s annual fish demand is 3.6 million metric tonnes, but only 1.2 million metric tonnes were produced domestically in 2022. So the country imports about 2.4 million metric tonnes of frozen fish annually and this is taking a toll on the country’s foreign exchange reserves. With the establishment of the marine and blue economy ministry in Nigeria, the solution to the importation of fish which costs the nation $60m annually should be most pressing concern; knowing full well that it is also not healthy to consume imported frozen fish which, in some cases, have spent close to three years in freezers.

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One way to reduce consumption of imported fishes is to have barges on water that can harvest large quantities of fishes.

Nigeria is blessed as 3,800km of the nation’s large resource base of waterways spanning 10,000km are navigable seasonally. Regrettably, our ocean ways are not well developed for transportation of people and goods. The Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority has not fully developed our blue infrastructure in Nigeria as a transport means. Travelling from Lagos to Ogun Waterside, Ondo Waterside, Bayelsa, Rivers, Cross River and Akwa Ibom states will be interesting. It will also be good to see regular ferries going to other African countries like Ghana from CMS and Badagry, to Angola, Gabon and Sao Tome and Principe.

According to the record, the global shipbuilding industry was worth $167bn in 2022 and estimated to be worth $229bn by the end of 2028. Shipbuilding, ferry and speedboat construction are means of creating jobs and earning revenues. HD Hyundai Heavy Industries, the largest shipbuilding industry in the world, employs about 12,800 workers. You can then best imagine the number of by-workers who are not direct employees of the industry but set up their businesses near the industry and earn living either as suppliers or distributors of these company products. I hope the establishment of the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy will bring the necessary development to Nigeria’s economy.

PIA, environmental pollution and host communities

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