High incidence of piracy, smuggling, human trafficking, drug peddling and high cost of doing business at the nation’s seaports, has made Nigeria’s maritime business a precarious entrepreneurial activity.
Recall that Nigeria’s blue economy potentials include maritime transportation, fisheries, alternative wind and coastal wave power sources (Renewable energy), tourism, climate change (carbon sink) and waste management.
And, in the face of dwindling revenue, global community is looking towards the seas and oceans for economic prosperity. According to an Economist Intelligence Unit Report (EIUR), China’s ocean economy contributed $962 billion or 10 per cent of GDP in 2014 employing 9million people. The United States similarly valued its ocean economy at $258billion in 2010 or 1.8 per cent of the gross domestic product.
However, wealth that African countries including Nigeria can generate from the ocean if properly harnessed, is equivalent to the GDP of countries in East Asia and the Pacific.
Due to the enormous potentials, maritime stakeholders have argued that if properly harnessed, Nigeria’s Blue economy could help the country diversify and generate far larger revenues than currently existed.
It was gathered that the blue economy has an enormous potential of dragging the Nigerian economy out of its slow-moving GDP growth rate (GDP growth for Q2 2019 was 1.94 percent down from 2.38 per cent in Q4 2018).
But, to acheive the potentials in blue economy, it would require competitive and efficient use of coastline resources, Nigerian ports and maritime facilities but these facilities that are supposed to be used to harness these enormous potentials are currently costlier than neighbouring countries.
For instance, in West Africa, Nigerian ports are more expensive than that of Port Novo in Benin Republic or Tema Port in Ghana. The relative high cost of Nigerian ports have reduced port activities; this, in turn, has reduced potential employment and decreased tax revenues that could be achieved in a less expensive and more efficient administrative environment.
Also, the high explicit and implicit cost of using Nigerian ports have stifled growth of maritime activities and held down the expansion of Nigerian coastal economies. The shrinking of port patronage is evident from the reduction in ships that have berthed in Nigeria between 2012 and 2017. Service boat numbers have fallen from 21,726 vessels in 2012 to 12,243 in 2017, a reduction of 271 percent. Ocean going ships fell from 6,369 in 2013 to 4,175 in 2017, a drop of 52.6 per cent.
Speaking on harnessing Nigeria’s blue economy potentials, the immediate past director general of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr Dakuku Peterside advised African countries to look towards harnessing blue economy potentials.
According to him, even though the global community was looking towards the ocean and sea for economic prosperity, such cannot be said of African countries.
He further stated that there was the need for government and critical stakeholders in the maritime sector to put in place measures that would facilitate and promote sustainable use, protection and preservation of the abundant resources in Nigeria’s blue economy.
He said, “Marine biodiversity as you are aware consists of the different species, their riches and abundance in the world’s oceans and seas. The sustainability of these diverse species which are abound in African seas and oceans is not only important to us as Africans, but also of a direct economic benefit to us as a nation.”
Dakuku stated that while the blue economy contributed $962billion to China’s economy in 2014, the United States got $258billion in 2010.
“The global community is looking more and more towards the seas and oceans for economic prosperity. According to an Economist Intelligence Unit Report (EIUR), China’s ocean economy contributed $962 billion or 10 per cent of GDP in 2014 employing 9million people. The United States similarly valued its ocean economy at $258billion in 2010or 1.8 per cent of the gross domestic product.
“These statistics underscore the inherent and diverse opportunities which Nigeria can as a nation use for rapid economic transformation and development.”
The Chairman Ship Owners Forum, Mrs Margaret Onyema-Orakusi, also called on Nigeria and other African countries to harness their blue economy potential for the well-being of their citizens.
She said with the right policies implemented, the blue economy could triple in just two years, adding that until recently, that the idea about development of blue economy in Africa was always ignored or underexploited.
According to Orakwusi, “It is of this reason that development of Africa’s blue economy is included in the African Union’s Agenda 2063, and a practical handbook on the blue economy was prepared by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in March 2016.”
Orakusi, said the blue economy was neglected in the past without minding the fact that it could offer a range of solution to African economy.
“More than one-quarter of Africa’s population lives within 100km of the coast and derive their livelihood there. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), by 2020, the annual economic value of energy activities related to maritime affairs will reach €2.5billion.
“Out of the 54 African countries, 34 are coastal countries and over 90 per cent of African export and import are transported by sea. The territorial waters under Africa jurisdiction cover a surface of 13 million km twice, with a continental shelf of some 6.5/million km twice comprising Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), She said.
Orakusi, said that aquaculture was a key driver of the blue economy, which made it capable of providing food, nutrition and employment opportunities to the people of Africa.
She explained further that since capture fisheries faced the problem of overfishing, the challenges of food security could be addressed through aquaculture production being the potential to transform the global food system for better.
She listed some benefits of blue economy such as employment opportunities, improve inter and intra-regional coastal trade in Africa, development of critical infrastructure for fishing and aquaculture business, promotion of coastal shipping among others.