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EXPLORING THE BLUE ECONOMY: 5 Key Insights For Nigerians


Aug 20, 2023

In the midst of Nigeria’s ongoing struggle to navigate a challenging economic landscape marked by inflation exceeding 24 percent, numerous businesses, particularly SMEs, find themselves in dire straits, battling for survival.

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s establishment of the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy is a promising stride forward, bringing hope to a nation that has long grappled with adversity.

Here are five enlightening aspects of the Marine and Blue Economy, curated by Ehi Braimah, a global authority in public relations and marketing strategy:

Defining the Blue Economy: The World Bank defines the blue economy as the “sustainable utilization of oceanic resources to foster economic growth, enhance livelihoods, and cultivate employment opportunities, all while safeguarding the ocean’s ecosystem’s well-being.”

According to the Ocean Panel, oceans constitute a wellspring of prosperity, serving as a catalyst for livelihoods, trade, transportation, and energy production. An ocean in good health contributes a staggering $1.5 trillion annually to the global economy, possessing an asset valuation of approximately $24 trillion.

Ocean’s Role in Our Lives: The oceans hold profound significance as a source of sustenance for over three billion people, and they furnish more than 50 percent of the planet’s oxygen. The African Union estimates the blue economy currently generates about $300 billion for the continent, facilitating the creation of 49 million jobs. Esteemed institutions such as the World Bank, United Nations, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) concur that ocean resources harbor the potential to be the next paramount global economic frontier.

The UN defines the blue economy as a spectrum of economic activities interconnected with oceans, seas, and coastal zones, contingent upon sustainability and social equity. Covering two-thirds of Earth’s expanse, oceans are indispensable to planetary and human well-being, notably in counteracting climate change.

Balancing Economic Gains and Sustainability: The essence of the blue economy philosophy is rooted in preserving oceanic sustainability while harnessing its economic potential. Conventional economic pursuits encompass fishing, coastal tourism, shipbuilding, desalination of seawater, offshore oil and gas extraction, and maritime transportation. More recent endeavors encompass blue carbon sequestration, aquaculture, deep-sea mining, seabed resource extraction, offshore renewable energy, and biotechnology. These emerging sectors offer avenues for training and employment, heralding a promising future.

Nigeria’s Breathtaking Potential: The Gulf of Guinea’s resource-rich expanse harbors an awe-inspiring economic promise within the blue economy. However, precise data analysis is essential to oversee the oceans’ sustainability. Nigeria’s strategic positioning in the Gulf of Guinea bestows it with a substantial coastline spanning 420 nautical miles and an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles, corresponding to a maritime territory of 290 square kilometers—a third of the nation’s land expanse (924 square kilometers). With Africa’s oceanic wealth evaluated at around $300 billion, one can only imagine the annual benefits that could accrue to Nigeria if strategic actions are taken. Advocates in the Maritime Stakeholders Forum advocate for revising maritime sector regulations to stimulate the blue economy’s potential and realization.

According to Rear Admiral Atakpa, a leading Nigerian expert on the blue economy, we must optimise the benefits of traditional and emerging sectors in a sustainable way by using an important tool known as “Marine Spatial Planning (MSP).”

“The MSP is considered the most important element in the establishment of a functional and virile blue economy, and the most critical requirement next to maritime security,” Real Admiral Atakpa added.

“The MSP”, he continued, “is the overarching administration of critical ocean-based and ocean-related maritime stakeholders with respect to who gets and does what, where, when, why and how, in a given maritime space for the purpose of achieving ocean sustainability through a well-coordinated use of the ocean space in a manner devoid of inter-sectoral conflict and rivalry.”

Rear Admiral Atakpa further emphasized that integrating the sustainability aspect of the blue economy will prevent reckless resource utilization and enhance Nigeria’s commitment to the United Nations Development Goals, particularly Goal No. 14, focused on “Life below Water.”

The management of the Marine Spatial Plan (MSP) will be overseen by a Marine Spatial Planner, an expert in ocean affairs, who will effectively assume the role of the minister within the proposed ministry.

This ministry, when effectively utilized, holds the potential to bolster Nigeria’s revenue, substantially alleviate budget deficits—particularly crucial as more than 90 percent of the revenue is presently allocated to debt servicing. It has recently come to light that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) carries a debt of $7.5 billion to JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs in what has been labeled as “securities lending.”

Additionally, there exists a liability of $6.3 billion in foreign currency forwards (forex obligations that the CBN owes to foreign investors), leading to a total debt responsibility of $13.8 billion, contributing to the depletion of CBN’s reserves. This financial status is disclosed in the audited financial statement dated December 2022, which is available on its official website.

The maritime stakeholders have also petitioned President Tinubu to establish an independent ministry for the maritime sector, distinct from the Ministry of Transportation, with the intention of deliberately promoting economic prosperity.

The maritime industry in Nigeria is substantial enough to warrant a dedicated ministry focused on activities related to the blue economy.

Presently, various sectors of the blue economy function as separate units within different ministries, resulting in differing interpretations and commitment levels towards ocean resources. For instance, fisheries fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, while shipping is under the Ministry of Transportation. Offshore renewable energy and deep-sea mining have yet to be fully integrated into the Energy Commission and the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, respectively.

The same applies to marine tourism.
Hence, the Ministry of Blue Economy is envisioned as a comprehensive hub that will amalgamate all maritime and maritime-related entities under one umbrella, eliminating duplication of functions, budgetary inefficiencies, and fostering coherent ocean governance. This consolidation will also resolve the ongoing issue of departments and agencies working independently.

Nigeria, alongside South Africa, Madagascar, Kenya, and Somalia, boasts significant potential in the realm of the blue economy.

The Ministry of Blue Economy is slated to house all maritime departments, agencies, and stakeholders.
The ministry’s strategic objectives encompass amalgamating maritime and maritime-related departments to ensure effective ocean administration, transparency, and accountability. This consolidation aims to eradicate function duplication and inter-agency competition while championing and optimizing ocean sustainability.

The proposed ministry is anticipated to become a reliable alternative revenue source—diversifying the nation’s income streams beyond oil. Therefore, the minister heading this ministry should possess expertise in blue economy management and be well-versed in marine spatial planning, a pivotal aspect of the ministry’s mandate.

The blue economy concept is intricately linked with the proficiency of the Nigerian Navy. Apart from furnishing hydrographic assistance to establish vital baseline data that underpins all other sectors of the blue economy, the Navy will also play a role in ensuring credible maritime security and enforcing directives pertaining to marine spatial planning, in line with Step 8 of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC)/UNESCO’s 10-step guide to MSP.

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