Blue Economy: The new frontier for Africa’s growth – An interview with Siddharth Chatterjee UN Resident Coordinator to Kenya (28/03/2019)

 Siddharth Chatterjee suggests the blue economy can offer a range of African solutions to African economic problems. He says Africa can learn and benefit from Japan as Japan is essentially a Blue economy.

Ambassador Masahiko Kiya, the Ambassador for TICAD 7 of MOFA Japan, Ambassador Soloman Maina, Kenya’s ambassador to Japan and Siddharth Chatterjee, United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya at Kenya Embassy in Tokyo

 For detailed information about this article, please refer to the website of UNIC Tokyo:, and Kenya News Business Insider for the interview done by Nikki Shimbun, Japan and reproduced by Pulse Live Kenya:

1. Why Blue Economy in Africa? What potentials does Africa have?

 The blue economy in Africa is neglected, ignored or underexploited, but it can offer a range of African solutions to African economic problems. More than one-quarter of Africa’s population lives within 100km of the coast and derive their livelihoods there. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), by 2020, the annual economic value of energy activities related to maritime affairs will reach EUR 2.5bn. Out of the 54 African countries, 34 are coastal countries and over 90% of African exports and imports are transported by sea. The territorial waters under African jurisdiction cover a surface area of 13 million km², with a continental shelf of some 6.5 million km² comprising exclusive economic zones (EEZ). The continent covers 17% of the world’s surface water resources. The strategic dimension of the blue economy is an indisputable reality for African countries. It is for this reason that it has been included in the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and that a practical handbook on the blue economy was prepared by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in March 2016.

 According to an FAO study, the total gross added value of the fisheries and aquaculture sector in Africa is estimated at USD 24bn, i.e. 1.6% of the GDP of all African countries.[2] Still according to FAO, this sector employs some 12.3 million people, but is largely underexploited. There is a need to professionalize the aquaculture and fisheries sector.

 By any standards, Africa is at least underusing, possibly even drastically wasting, its blue economy potential. This must be rectified. By some estimates, the African maritime industry is already worth USD 1 trillion annually. But, with the right economic policies implemented, it could triple in just two years.

Why is Japan needed? What advantage does Japan have to be a partner country?

 Japan is essentially a Blue economy and a global economic giant. Africa can learn and benefit from Japan. Let me start by commending Japan for co-hosting the Blue Economy Conference with Kenya and Canada in Nairobi in 2018.

 If the continent is to establish a viable blue economy, African countries must begin with focus on the current limited infrastructure and capacities to assure maritime security and coastal protection. The second imperative is to establish partnerships, including innovative financing models, preferably driven by the private sector.

 Kenya co-hosted the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference (SBEC) between the 26th and 28th November 2018 with Canada and Japan.[3] SBEC aimed to make progress towards safeguarding and developing the world’s water bodies and the ecosystems that live therein. The conference hosted over 17,000 participants from 184 countries and sought to exploit the potential of oceans, seas, rivers, lakes by leveraging on the latest scientific knowledge and innovation while ensuring the proper conservation of the aquatic resources for generations to come. During the conference, President of Kenya Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta made several pledges including enhancing security in the high seas, combating illegal fishing while supporting sustainable and responsible fishing of endangered species and key fish stocks, among other things.

 Japan’s support to the Blue economy will ensure that the Blue/ocean economy, will be “a major contributor to continental transformation and growth” as envisaged in the Agenda 2063, Furthermore the sector will benefit from Japanese expertise in maritime security and safety. Japan has proven expertise and demonstrated real contributions in ensuring freedom and safety of navigation, as witnessed by Japanese contributions to improving navigation safety in the Straits of Malacca.

 I actually see Kenya as a gateway to Africa. Kenya has the ports. It has the infrastructure. It is interconnected. It is a beacon of hope in a region of instability. In fact it represents everything that we want to see happen all across Africa. And therefore to me Kenya becomes even more crucial in becoming the convener and the facilitator of the entire Blue Economy dialogue.

 We as the UN family stand ready to support Japan in advancing a sustainable Blue Economy in Kenya.

3. What opportunities do Japanese companies have? How should Japan be involved in developing Blue Economy?

 There five areas where Japan’s ocean industry expertise could be shared to promote the blue economy in the Africa region.[4]

(1) Most African states are looking seaward for alternative non-conventional renewable sources of energy. There’s interest in offshore solar power as having high potential as a major source of energy. Japan private sector can help here. Japan’s largest solar power plant, the Kyocera Corporation’s Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega Solar Power Plant, is an offshore technology built on reclaimed land jutting the waters of Kagoshima Bay, generating 70 MW of energy in Kagoshima City. The project has an annual power generation capacity of 78,800MWh and is expected to supply clean electricity to approximately 22,000 average households.

(2) While there’s been no commercial developments to date there’s still international interest in deep-sea mining in the Indian Ocean. For polymetallic nodules, Japan is a pioneer investor in the Indian Ocean and the International Seabed Authority entered into a contract with Japan after the Law of the Sea Convention came into effect. Japan can help with mining technology, processing technology and environmental impact assessment. There’s also a growing interest in developments in relation to deep water gas hydrates energy reserves (reservoirs of gas trapped in ice crystals) where Japan is at the cutting edge. India and Japan last year carried out a joint survey for gas hydrates using a Japanese drilling ship in the Indian Ocean. Japan has set itself the target of bringing methane hydrates into the mainstream by the early 2020s. Prime Minister Modi has listed work on gas hydrates among the top 10 potential areas of research for India.

(3) R&D in marine biotechnology is emerging as a promising sector for growth and employment in the Indian Ocean. The Indian Ocean region is rich in marine biodiversity: we’re likely to see the realisation of marine biotechnology potential, including the culture of a range of marine organisms for biofuels, bioremediation and bioproducts.

(4) Aquaculture is a key driver of the Blue Economy in the Indian Ocean providing food, nutrition and employment opportunities to the people in the region. Since capture fisheries face the problem of overfishing in the region, the challenges of food security can be addressed through aquaculture production. Aquaculture has the potential to transform the global food system for the better. Japan has tremendous skills in this industry and can assist African states in developing aquaculture systems that expand the range of foods and the nutritional content of those foods, while ensuring that the industry is economically and environmentally sustainable.

(5) Japan can strengthen the digital blue economy in the Indian Ocean: the undersea cables and the electronic services that they can enable, such as broadband and data exchange. Japan can contribute to the growing digital fabric connecting the Indian Ocean: it’s got some of world’s top vendors of submarine cable systems.

4. What do you expect for TICAD 7? Could you tell us on what you are working with Japanese government for the conference?

 UNDP is the longest serving co-organizer of TICAD process with the Government of Japan. Co-organizing TICAD process provides Japan and UNDP with important strategic advantages, including: (1) facilitating global discourse on Africa’s development; (2) promoting innovative partnerships; (3) Enhancing integration of the UN Development System; and (4) Enhancing strategic partnerships with Japan in Africa as the key driver of the corporate strategic partnership with Japan.

 In addition to the issues raised above, we expect TICAD 7 to promote Africa’s blue/ocean economy to enhance sustainable use of marine resources, developing port facilities and facilitating marine transport. Furthermore we expect the issue of Africa’s infrastructure and connectivity to be high on the TICAD 7 Agenda as this will unlock the construction and management of quality transport infrastructure, such as ports, maritime corridors, airports, railroads, bridges and trunk roads that are efficient in view of life-cycle cost, reliable, safe, resilient against natural disasters and environmentally friendly, to strengthen connectivity in Africa, utilizing state of the art infrastructure technology.

5. What challenges does Africa have to develop Blue Economy? What infrastructures/rules/policies are needed?

 From concerns around environmental sustainability to the dangers of corruption and a dearth of actionable data, policymakers need vast resources to get to grips with large swathes of their own territory.

 There are also challenges related to climate change, rising sea temperatures, ocean acidification and rising sea levels.

 There are current conflicts driven by lack of demarcation of maritime and aquatic boundaries. This has been a constant source of tensions between neighbouring countries, not only threating any long-term investment considerations, but also leading to irresponsible use of resources.

 The continent needs to fast-track resolution of disputes and strengthen their maritime and riparian cooperation mechanisms. This will provide grounds for working on interstate economies of scale and develop strategies for bridging technical and infrastructure gaps among States.

 In line with SDG 14, development of this sector must also promote social inclusion while ensuring environmental sustainability. In this respect, the continent owes special consideration to people living along the shores of oceans, lakes and rivers, essentially youth and women. The question of how this new frontier can address poverty reduction and hunger when leaving no one behind must be a central consideration. We need to be able to govern resources effectively and be able to utilise them in a way that’s transparent and inclusive.

 Equally daunting is required transboundary negotiation among at least 38 African countries, intensive planning, intersectoral planning, intragovernmental coordination, extensive training and complex multi-stakeholder engagement.

 The African Union has launched its 2050 Integrated Maritime Strategy in a bid to provide a broad framework for the protection and sustainable exploitation of Africa’s marine resources. At its heart lies the creation of a Combined Exclusive Maritime Zone of Africa (CEMZA), a common maritime space intended to boost trade, protect the environment and fisheries, share information and boost border protection and defence activities.

[1] See Energy Technology Perspectives 2012, Pathways to a Clean Energy System, available at

[2] See FAO, (2014). The Value of African Fisheries, available at

[3] Japan joined Canada and Kenya in co-hosting SBEC and provided KEN Sh300 million funding for the conference;

[4] See Anthony Bergin (2016). A vision in blue: Japan and the Indian Ocean, available at

 *The interview was done by Nikki Shimbun, Japan and reproduced by Pulse Live Kenya.

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