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Stakeholders discuss African ports and the role of the blue economy in integration

Stakeholders discuss African ports and the role of the blue economy in integration

The African Natural Resources Center in collaboration with the Infrastructure and Urban Development Department of the African Development Bank Group brought together a range of stakeholders on 30 March to explore ways to integrate African ports more effectively into the blue economy.

Participants at the meeting including representatives of the African Development Bank, the African Union Development Agency, governments, and regional bodies agreed on the pressing need to develop national strategies to harness the blue economy. There was also consensus that ports, as a locus of many blue economy activities, should be an integral part of such a strategy.

The blue economy approach promotes the sustainable use and management of marine and coastal spaces and resources for economic growth. The concept covers fisheries, aquaculture, maritime transport, tourism, and offshore energy, among other sectors.

“There are a lot of opportunities to strengthen business networks through a blue economy, and ports play a key role in that,” said Dr. Bernice McLean of the African Union Development Agency.

McLean said that, with strategic coordination and well-integrated national policies, the blue economy can trigger a virtuous circle, and lead to the creation of new fields of activity, boosting job creation and increasing the well-being of many.  “While there is a rapid movement to develop a framework around the blue economy, there is a need to see it implemented practically on the ground,” she added.   

Participants also stressed the need to achieve the right balance between economic activity and good stewardship of marine resources.

“The long-term and sustainable co-existence of all these activities heavily rely on a balanced relationship between economic, social, and environmental needs, without which its effectiveness and contributions to preserving the quality of the marine eco-system would be minimized,” said Col. André Ciseau, Secretary-General of the Port Management Association of Eastern & Southern Africa.

Security is vital, said Jean Marie Koffi, Secretary-General of the Port Management Association of West and Central Africa. “Vital to the success of a blue economy is the strengthening of port security, ensuring that interregional access registration procedures are granted and well-regulated to eligible stakeholders. This will ensure that we can adequately apply regulatory codes for anyone using our waters. Strong coordination action is required to achieve this,” Koffi said.

According to Dr. Harry Barnes-Dabban,Coordinator of the Ports Environmental Network – Africa, security policies must be front and center in maritime policy discussions.  “Given the increasingly complex nature of transnational maritime activities, pragmatic security guidelines to detect, mitigate, and prevent security incidents cannot be overstated.  Traditional views of maritime security responsibilities must be reviewed and expanded,” he said.

The African Development Bank plays a key role in developing African ports, including financing the construction of a container terminal at Walvis Bay port in Namibia. The investment paved the way for Walvis Bay to become a logistics hub for landlocked southern African countries.

We are “investing in ports across the continent, providing infrastructural investments, technical assistance, policy advisory, and project operations support to governments, and specific infrastructure and equipment support to the private sector through public-private partnership arrangements, an effort being undertaken with a climate adaptation and mitigation lens,” said Laté Dodji Lawson Zankli, Lead Country Program Coordinator in the African Development Bank Group’s Regional Development, Integration and Business Delivery department.  

A number of recommendations emerged from the discussion: participants called for national and regional policies governing port management to be aligned. Another proposal was for the establishment of a reporting and monitoring framework.

Others said that climate adaptation and mitigation efforts should be more closely integrated into the blue economy approach.

“There is need to not only develop an interregional strategy but a Pan-African strategy for maritime connectivity that would enable all African states, particularly the 38 coastal states, to deal with shipping lines on its waters,” said Raj Mohabeer of the Indian Ocean Commission.

The African Union is already working on a pan-African Blue Economy Strategy, which will play a key role in creating an inclusive continental implementation.

The African Natural Resources Centre generates high-quality knowledge and engages in policy dialogue. It also provides technical support to regional member countries on natural resources planning, investment, and governance, with a focus on land, forestry, fisheries, water, oil, gas, and minerals.


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