Posted Mon, Oct 9, 2023 7:22 AM
The marine ecosystem is opening new frontiers for economic growth. The blue economy has been gaining popularity in development circles as a policy choice for developed and developing nations to promote their economic objectives. According to the European Union Blue Economy Report of 2021, the blue economy generated over 500 billion Euros, accounting for 1.7 per cent of GDP in Europe. This suggests that the blue economy provides an opportunity to galvanise new rapid growth determinants, especially towards tackling deepening poverty and restiveness in coastal economies, including Nigeria. As a result, the Sustainability Policy Commission of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) on Tuesday, October 3rd, 2023, held a webinar with the theme "Blue Economy: Private Sector's Vital Role."
In his opening remarks, a member of the steering committee of the Sustainability Policy Commission of the NESG, Mr Clem Ugorji, said that according to the World Bank, the Blue Economy, refers to the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs while preserving the health of the ocean ecosystem". With this, the blue economy provides an opportunity for coastal nations blessed with abundant marine resources, like Nigeria, to boost economic activity and growth through the sustainable use of its renewable resources. He noted that the blue economy generated over 500 billion Euros, accounting for 1.7 per cent of GDP in Europe and has the potential to generate 5 billion dollars in Nigeria and that this suggests that the blue economy provides an opportunity to galvanise new rapid growth determinants, especially towards tackling deepening poverty and restiveness in coastal economies, including Nigeria.
Mr. Ugorji also noted that the private sector could introduce maritime-based technology and improve the use of marine resources, boost the technical versatility of workers through entrepreneurship, on-the-job training and investment capabilities, which can help expand projects, promote innovation and marketing of marine and blue economy services leading to increased exports and foreign exchange. He revealed that a lack of infrastructure and marine litter is one of the biggest challenges to overcome in the sustainable development of the blue economy as it threatens the vitality of sea creatures and their ability to function appropriately and procreate, thus reducing biodiversity and threatening the quality of potential resources.
During the panel session, a maritime consultant, Captain Suleiman Baiyee, said that stakeholders must do what is best for the nation by helping to develop other countries' resources. He said the biggest challenge in the blue economic zone of Nigeria is security, as it underpins investors' confidence and is critical in developing the nation; we have about 853 km of coastline and 4,000 km of navigable coastal ways, which requires infrastructure to set and achieve its potentials. He said the resources of the areas are taxed, but very little of the taxes go back into the area's development. Every commercial vessel that comes into our waterways is escorted by a security vessel, which costs a lot and is unsustainable, while also reiterating the need for a secure environment and proper funding as critical elements that will ensure Nigeria benefits from the blue economy.
Ms. Eunice Ezeoke, President of the Women's International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA), Nigeria, stated that several opportunities can help the private sector grow Nigeria's blue economy. She noted that the country can not exist in isolation and that the blue economy alone brings in 300 billion dollars for the African economy and supports 49 million jobs across the continent. She reiterated the need for Nigeria to open up its blue economy through sustainable energy and biomass resources, which will give birth to smart ships and artificial technology to grow, bring development to the sector, and help Nigeria with economic diversification. Furthermore, Ms Ezeoke revealed that marine farming, export and seafood processing will enable food security and create jobs. Still, she also reiterated the need for good roads, security, establishment and development of inland waterways for carriage and transport of goods and services for the development of the blue economy to foster private sector investment in ecotourism, deep sea mining and renewable energy, carbon credits and decarbonisation.
Director of Public Affairs, Communications & Sustainability, The Coca-Cola Company, Ms Amaka Onyemelukwe, said that mismanaged waste on land affects the ocean and that plastic pollution includes plastic bags, bottles and all kinds of food wrappers and debris and that everyone has a role to play with a huge responsibility in helping with behavioural change in terms of attitude towards waste disposal. She pointed out the need for a clear collaboration between the private sector and government to drive awareness that changes behaviour for the opportunities in the industry to be fully harnessed. She stated the need for actionable policies that work according to our peculiarities. Policies that specify sustainable packaging that can be collected and recycled to reduce the influx into ocean bodies.
The 29th Nigerian Economic Summit, with the theme 'Pathways for Sustainable Economic Transformation and Inclusion', is scheduled to hold on the 23rd and 24th of October, 2023, at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel Abuja. In light of the urgency of translating economic growth into improved and sustainable living standards for all citizens, this year's summit theme hints at Nigeria's potential for sustainable development, leveraging innovative policies, robust institutions, strategic infrastructural investments, and human capital development.