Magazine article New African

Oceans Are Fundamental for Africa's Existence-President Michel

Magazine article New African

Oceans Are Fundamental for Africa's Existence-President Michel

Article excerpt

The Blue Economy is a sustainable development concept that is now in vogue. New African correspondent Wanjohi Kabukuru interviewed President James Michel of Seychelles (pictured right), a champion of the Blue Economy, about the concept in light of UN climate change talks in Paris, France in November.

Q: What is the Blue Economy and when was the idea floated?

A: The Green Economy was a central tenet of the debate around sustainable development for several years, leading up to the 2012 Rio +20World Sustainable Development Summit. But Seychelles and many other island and coastal states understood that if oceans were not centralised within the sustainable development debate, sustainable development would remain a myth, as 72 per cent of the planet is covered by oceans and seas, representing 95 per cent of the biosphere. The Blue Economy is thus about developing sustainable practices--green practices in what is a "blue world". It is about maximising the enormous economic potential of oceans while preserving them.

The vastness of this blue frontier provides an almost limitless source of economic potential although we must be mindful of the already heavy pressures of industrial fishing.

Restoring the health of our oceans has become a universal challenge and one of the most fundamental objectives espoused by the concept of a Blue Economy.

The Blue Economy offers an alternative economic approach that conceptualises oceans as "Development Spaces" and incorporates the real value of natural (blue) capital into all aspects of economic activity--whether it be tourism, fisheries, energy, trade and transportation among others. Fundamental to its approach, the Blue Economy propagates a principle of equity, which ensures that coastal communities optimise on the benefits received from the oceans that surround them while also protecting them. It is in this context that Seychelles launched a Blue Economy Summit in January 2014 as part of the Abu Dhabi sustainability week that aimed to sensitise the Indian Ocean region and the world to the opportunities of oceanic development--while also warning of the risk of continuing 'business as usual'.

Q: Why is Seychelles keen on the "Blue Economy"?

A: For a small island nation, with a low natural resource base, isolated in location and increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, the Blue Economy is not just a concept, it is the only avenue for sustainable development in the Seychelles. The oceans have always and will always be fundamental to our existence. The economy and the identity of the Seychellois people are firmly embedded in our ocean heritage and its resources.

With an EEZ [Exclusive Economic Zone--a sea zone over which a state has special rights] of over 1.3 million sq. km, Seychelles is both a small island state and a large oceanic nation.

How can we use this space productively, efficiently, and more importantly, sustainably? The Blue Economy is even more important when you recognise that the health of oceanic resources is interconnected--we must work nationally, regionally and globally.

Both of Seychelles' existing economic pillars of tourism and fisheries are wholly dependent on the ocean that surrounds them, thereby intrinsically linking the livelihoods of Seychellois people to their ocean.

In championing efforts to develop a Blue Economy, as of February 2015, a specific department was created under the newly established Ministry of Finance, Trade and Blue Economy.

2014 was a particularly important moment for the adoption of a Blue Economy given the revision of several policies and strategies as well as the enactment of a New Fisheries Act which espouses the principles of a Blue Economy, which are sustainability, equitability and efficiency. We are also in the process of implementing the first "Marine Spatial Planning" tool in the country to support the development of an innovative financing mechanism, known uniquely as the Debt-for-Adaptation Swap. …

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