Southern African countries need to collaborate more in their quest to exploit opportunities presented by the blue economy, a ministerial high level roundtable agreed.

Premdut Koonjoo, Mauritius’ Minister for Ocean Economy, Marime Resources, Fisheries and Shipping; Marie Joseph Noel-Etienne Ghislain Sinatambou, Minister of Social Security, National Solidarity, Environment and Sustainable Development; Jean Richard Payendee, Commissioner for the Environment, Forestry, Tourism, Marine Parks and Fisheries; and Ambassador Chanfi Ismael of Comoros, sat on the roundtable.

They agreed that given the importance of the sustainable use of coastal and marine resources, all southern African states – islands, coastal and landlocked – should focus on regional cooperation to ensure the untapped wealth of its oceans is exploited for the social and economic benefit of its people through the exploitation of regional value chains along all activities.

“We must also collaborate in the development of infrastructure in skills, improve skills training and research, development and innovation around the blue economy activities,” said Mr. Sinatambou.

They emphasized the need for political will in the region to develop laws that protect the sustainable exploitation of coastal and marine resources, in particular the need for nations to implement agreed programmes for the benefit of the region’s citizens.

Mauritius and Comoros were hailed as success stories in working together to develop their blue economies and other developmental programmes.

Ambassador Chanfi emphasized the need for the sustainable management of the blue economy resources as there has been a rapid decline in recent years.

Overfishing, pollution and climate change are all putting unprecedented stress on marine ecosystems and affecting the services they are able to provide.

“As you have seen from the video, overexploitation and poor management of marine resources have resulted in lost opportunities for our people and can heighten food insecurity and diminished economic opportunities,” he said.

“We need to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.’’

The region’s blue economy should help provide social and economic benefits for current and future generations hence the need for collaboration and partnerships between member States, the ministers agreed.

They emphasized the need to protect and effectively harness the region’s ocean resources saying this was central to the emergence of the blue economy as oceans and seas now define a new frontier of development.

How the region’s oceans are managed, and how transboundary dynamics are shaped to govern and manage these shared resources, will be critical to building a more sustainable regional future under a common regional vision for the blue economy, they agreed.

The blue economy refers to an ocean-based economic model which employs sustainable technologies and infrastructure to secure growth while at the same time protecting oceans.

The roundtable was part of the 24th Session of the Inter-Governmental Committee of Experts (ICE) of Southern Africa. The four-day meeting is being held under the theme ‘Blue Economy, Inclusive Industrialization and Economic Development in Southern Africa’.