The Oceans as Africa’s New Frontier for Development

On 27-29 January 2020, the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFR) and UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (UNESCO/IOC) organized a regional workshop to identify knowledge gaps and regional ocean science priorities in Africa and the adjacent island States. Conducted within the framework of the preparatory phase of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), the event took place in Nairobi (Kenya) and gathered around 100 ocean professionals from across the continent.

Intensified human activity causes increasing pressures on ocean ecosystems (sea rise level, ocean acidification, coastal erosion, natural disasters), consequently their ability to provide benefits such as food security, recreation and energy is decreasing. Out of 54 African states, 38 are coastal, and 90% of regional imports and exports are conducted by sea.

As the state of the ocean is correlated with environmental sustainability, African and the adjacent island States must preserve their marine ecosystems to ensure climate resilient ocean economies. In this context, the Government of Kenya hosted “the Regional Consultative Workshop on the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development for Africa and the Adjacent Island States” (27-29 January, Kenya).

Integrating the Ocean Decade’s priorities into regional strategies
This was part of a series of regional workshops aimed at consolidating regional positions and recommendations for the for the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, which was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly to run for a period of 10 years (2021-2030). “The Decade” offers the ocean community a once-in-a-life-time opportunity to join efforts, mobilize resources, create innovative partnerships, and engage governments in moving towards the Ocean We Need for the Future We Want.

The Ocean Decade aims to catalyze action to achieve high-level scientific and technological breakthroughs, and thus realize a set of six priority societal outcomes for the world’s oceans: a clean ocean; a healthy & resilient ocean; a predicted ocean; a safe ocean, a sustainable & productive ocean; and a transparent & accessible ocean.

The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, which was tasked by the UN General Assembly to prepare the implementation plan for the Decade, joined forces with the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA), and the Secretariat of the Nairobi Convention (UN Environment) to organize this regional workshop.

Harnessing collaboration to promote a Blue Economy
The workshop emphasized the need to strengthen and build upon existing mechanisms such as the regional commissions and conventions, as well as frameworks and strategies and align with the African Union’s initiatives. This includes the Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want, which recognizesd the Blue Economy as a major contributor to continental transformation and growth, and the 2050 African Integrated Marine Strategic Plan of Action (AIMS2050), which provides a roadmap for increased wealth creation from Africa’s oceans and seas by developing a sustainable thriving blue economy.

Capacity development was identified as a key area of concern, especially the need to improve infrastructure and facilities for research, provision of training for scientific and technical staff, as well as translation of science to policy. This will enable the identification and bridging of major data and knowledge gaps. Other issues that were highlighted include the role of youth and job creation from the ocean economy, marine spatial planning, climate change impacts on the coastal zones, land-sea interactions and pollution, and innovative financing models for the ocean economy.

The recommendations of this workshop will be incorporated into the Implementation Plan for the Decade which will be presented to the UN General Assembly towards the end of 2020.

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