After a highly participatory 18 month co-creative stakeholder process, Our Blue Future (OBF) was formally launched on the 11th of October 2022, in front of over 200 Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA) Symposium delegates, in Gqeberha, South Africa. The multi-stakeholder initiative currently comprising 16 partners seeks an inclusive and sustainable blue economy in the Western Indian Ocean region.
In her opening remarks,OBF’s current chair Julie Mulonga (Wetlands International) emphasized that OBF is an Africa-led multi-stakeholder initiative that is a critical part of the work that is currently taking place in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region. With coastal communities and their representatives seen as stakeholders and partners, OBF seeks to strengthen their capacity for collaboration as it believes they play an important role in a vision of a healthy, prosperous, and resilient future for the region.
Why does WIO need a multi stakeholder initiative?
As emphasized by Chris Whyte (ACEN foundation), “Our Blue Future takes us back to SDG 17, and prompts us to think more creatively about the importance of high-quality collaboration and use of resources we have as partner organizations for betterment of WIO region.” OBF is made up of organizations and individuals that are passionate about sustainable development. Chris added that “OBF also seeks to drive the sustainable development agenda from the ground through its Innovation Teams that include community led activities.” This was echoed by Joan Momanyi (CORDIO East Africa). In her remarks, OBF brings in multi-faceted solutions that will and should bring benefit the WIO region at least for the next 25 years. As highlighted by Joan Momanyi, “projections show, more people will be moving into the coastal areas, action is needed right now!”
What are the OBF key success factors?
Dr. Samantha Petersen (WWF) mentioned that among other things, OBF is actively bringing together key actors in responding to assessments made on the trajectory of the WIO decline. “A people centred approach and action is needed, urgently!” Dr. Tim Andrew (Nairobi Convention Secretariat) emphasized that OBF needs to engage more community-based organizations, and work harder in getting governments on board.
What is the next step for OBF?
According to Colonel Andre Ciseau (Port Management Association of Eastern and Southern Africa), “OBF’s vision is clear on the actions for a sustainable future, it is our duty to harmonize how we respond and carry the work forward, now.”
After the launch, OBF’s 3 innovation teams conducted multiple sessions with Dominic Stucker (Collective Leadership Institute) guiding a discussion on capacity building, financing and functioning of the innovation teams. The 3 innovations teams are circular economy, community livelihoods and blue tourism. Faha Al-Guthmy (Wildlife Conservation Society) called for the need to move beyond funding, which is ultimately unsustainable, into finance which sets the agenda, drives development and the private sector.
Santantra Razafindratsimba and Sam Petersen from WWF spoke at the community livelihood incubator innovation team session, focusing on unlocking a sustainable blue economy in the South West Indian Ocean, and demonstrated the small scale fisheries resource and collaboration hub portal that can be utilized to share resources among the innovation teams.
Samson Obiene (CORDIO East Africa) spoke on diversification and multi-stakeholder engagement in blue tourism, a WIO initiative that aims to explore opportunities for eco -cultural tourism within the WIO region. At the core of the multi stakeholder approach will be the WIO’s private sector. The successful launch and interactive engagement of the innovation teams will catapult OBF into developing into a well-resourced & effective collaboration between government, business, civil society and the community in the Western Indian Ocean region. In the words of Salim Ali (SWIOTUNA forum), it is important to engage communities and other key partners in policy formulation processes and go beyond capacity building activities.