Innovative approaches to inclusive sustainable blue economy in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) Region: An outcome of the Ocean Innovation Africa Summit

The Western Indian Ocean (WIO) is a biodiversity hotspot endowed with rich habitats, ecosystems and marine based resources. It is estimated that the WIO region is valued at US$ 20 Billion annually with a conservative gross marine product of US$ 333 billion. The coastal and marine based resources support over 65 Million People who depend on these resources for their sustainable livelihood.  It is now evident that terrestrial resources can no longer sustain life support system, and the oceans have been seen as frontier for countries to exploit in order to meet their socio-economic growth and development. However, if not done in a more sustainable way (business as usual), these resources which are already facing challenges

On Monday of 21st to Wednesday 23rd February 2023, Our Blue Future (OBF) was among the various stakeholders and actors that converged in Cape Town, South Africa for Ocean Innovations Africa Summit to explore challenges, opportunities and innovative solutions for an inclusive sustainable blue economy in Africa. The event was organized by Ocean Hub Africa and co-sponsored by Our Blue Future (OBF) with the support of Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. Participants were drawn from Regional Economic Communities (RECs, namely SADC, Indian Ocean Commission, COMESA among others), innovation hubs, blue entrepreneurs, technology companies (Fintec & Blue tech), impact investors, NGOs, fisher associations, universities among others. Some of the participants included GIZ, Our Blue Future (OBF), Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), World Bank (South Africa Office), the British Embassy, Norwegian Embassy, COMESA, WWF, WCS, Trinomics. 

Some of the participants at the Ocean Innovation Africa Summit

The event brought together leaders, investors, scientists, local communities, civil society organizations, entrepreneurs and financing institutions working towards creating a positive impact of our oceans. In addition to showcasing how the different actors were contributing to achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG 14 (Life Below Water) by addressing issues of improved and sustainable ocean governance and conservation, the event also demonstrated how all SDGs are interlinked through innovations led by entrepreneurship, science, and technology. These innovations have had a potential to contribute to restoring ocean’s global functions and biodiversity through addressing present challenges of climate change, ocean pollution and ocean overexploitation. 

The event featured various themes and topics across the sustainable blue economy value chains including fisheries, sports, tourism, circular economy, maritime shipping, green ports, policy and finance solutions. There were also exhibitions showcasing inclusive sustainable blue economy solutions, match making, circular economy pitch competition, ocean ventures demo, Ocean Hub Africa accelerator demo, African Ocean – impact pitch demo. Great Blue Wall, an Initiative of the IUCN had a session to identify potential priority areas and finance disbursement mechanism for sustainable blue economy enterprises in the WIO region. IUCN who is also a partner of Our Blue Future (OBF) is developing Africa wide multi-million funding facility (Great Blue Wall) for conserving coastal and marine biodiversity. 

During the summit, OBF jointly with Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) organized a session on financial solutions.  The session was facilitated by Fahd Al-Guthmy from Wildlife Conservation Society, Dr. Edward Kimakwa and Yvonne Waweru from Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). 

Yvonne Waweru, Fahd Al-Guthmy and Edward Kimakwa had successful engagements with various stakeholders at the conference. Mrs Nancy Karigithu the former Principal Secretary Maritime Affairs in Kenya.

The session attracted several interest groups including development partners , Government agencies, private sector, civil society organizations, namely, ABALOBI, MIHARI, BLOEBE, the Nature Conservancy – TNC, WWF, Marine Stewardship Council – MSC, WIOMSA, IUCN, Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI), COMESA, Indian Ocean Commission (IOC), Ocean Hub Africa, Schmidt Marine Tech. Partners, Trinomics, Mercator Ocean International. 

Dr. Edward Kimakwa making a presentation about Our Blue Future (OBF) at the Ocean Innovation Africa Summit

Dr. Kimakwa, Senior Marine Advisor and Our Blue Future (OBF) Coordinator highlighted that “Ocean Africa Innovation Summit is very much in line with OBF vision. OBF envisions a healthy, prosperous, and resilient WIO region for all, underpinned by participatory governance, sustainable economies and thriving coastal and marine ecosystems”. Participants acknowledged that there was no comprehensive framework for targeted collective actions between the various actors in the blue economy space in the WIO in order to make interventions more strategic and effective. OBF therefore presents an excellent opportunity for all actors in the coastal and marine space in the WIO region to work together, connect, share lessons and experiences, and implement best practices for an inclusive sustainable blue economy.

Yvonne Waweru, the Senior Governance for the GIZ Western Indian Ocean Governance Initiative (WIOGI) underscored the importance of sustainable financing mechanism as an enabler to transitioning to sustainable blue economy. “Limited access to sustainable financing is one of the barriers to achieving an inclusive sustainable blue economy in the WIO region. Our Blue Future (OBF) is setting up a blue finance innovation team to identify and promote sustainable financing solutions, especially for community led on the ground initiatives”, said Yvonne. Our Blue Future (OBF) is intended to serve as both technical and financial facility for an inclusive sustainable blue economy. 

Fahd Al-Guthmy the Director, Conservation Finance at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) informed participants that his organization is implementing Miamba Yetu programme with funding from the Global Coral Reef Fund (GCRF). The project is being implemented in Kenya and Tanzania on pilot basis. “Miamba Yetu programme is an innovative fund for catalysing private capital investments in the blue economy space in the WIO region.  This model financing facility is about disaggregation of large tickets to meet the needs of coastal communities to deliver on sustainable blue economy”, said Fahd. 

Most of the participants were motivated by the financing model of GFCR and Our Blue Future (OBF) initiative and were keen to engage with the two initiatives beyond the workshop. Many participants expressed interest to join OBF. Since then, MIHARI, ABALOBI and Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) have joined OBF. OBF currently has 22 partners drawn from the private sector, civil society, the governments, local communities, non-governmental organizations and development partners. The summit presented an excellent opportunity for OBF and other partners to network, develop synergies and priorities for collective and collaborative action for catalysing transition to an inclusive sustainable blue economy in the WIO region. 

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