Sub-Saharan African countries have over the last few decades recorded strong growth rates, resulting in an average growth of about 5% in the region in 2014. Countries such as Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya and Senegal have continued to perform well in spite of the notable drop in 2015 as a result of the fall in oil prices.
Despite these performances, most Sub-Saharan African countries continued to be plagued by high levels of poverty and inequalities and low standards of health and education systems, which explain the reason for their very low Human Development Index (HDI). According to the 2015 UNDP report on Human Development, 38 of the 48 Sub-Saharan countries are ranked among the fourth and last categories of countries with the lowest Human Development.
This situation can be attributed to a lack of exploitation of all the potentials available to these African countries. These include potentials offered by the seas, oceans, lakes and rivers, through fishing, tourism, commerce, energy supply and the production of pharmaceutical products which ensure the creation of wealth and employment. While maritime commerce can be said to be developed in the coastal nations of sub-Saharan Africa, fishing, tourism, energy and pharmaceutical production remain under exploited.
This article revisits the under-exploited aspects of the Blue economy in the Sub-Saharan African region that offer a strong economic growth potential for the region.
Tourism: An under-exploited but important revenue-generating sector for Sub-Saharan Africa
According to the World Tourism Organization, Global revenues for tourism was about $1.5 billion in 2014, in which $221 billion was revenue from passenger transportation and $1245 billion was from visitors’ expenditures in accommodation, food and drinks, leisure, shopping and other goods and services. This offers a really great opportunity in direct employment, particularly for the youth.
However, although the global revenues for tourism were high, Africa was only able to gain 3% from this total revenue – which equals less than 3% for Sub-Saharan Africa. This low tourism revenue rates is due to lack of significant political action that ensures revenue growth in the tourism sector. This lack of policy is characterized by under-equipped and under-managed beaches, inadequate infrastructure, a lack of promotion of tourist sites, and oftentimes a high political instability. If Sub-Saharan African countries, through the tourism potentials that the oceans offer can improve their tourism sector and achieve at least 10% from the global revenue for tourism totaling about $150 billion, they would then be able to have additional resources to finance other developmental projects.
Fisheries and Aquaculture: Low African Productivity in the global market
The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in its 2016 report on the State of the World Fisheries and Aquaculture highlights the fact that fish continue to be one of the most traded basic commodities globally, and that more than half of the these exports are from developing countries. However, African marine and coastal aquaculture production was only 0.2% in 2014 (FAO 2014). This then gives a lower estimated turnover for Sub-Saharan Africa.
Considering the fact that Africa has an estimated maritime area of about 13 million square kilometers, it is a wonder why African production is not large enough. The importance of fishery and aquaculture in the economic transformation of Sub-Saharan African countries towards inclusive economies lies in their ability to create direct employment particularly for the underprivileged population. For example in Mauritius, 29,400 jobs were created through the Fishing sector in 2014, according to the FAO.
More so, there is no doubt that fishery and aquaculture have played an important role in the economic expansion of Asian countries over the past decades. That 53% of the global maritime and coastal aquaculture production of fish come from Asia in 2014, is proof of this fact. In other words, the global exports of fish, cited at the beginning of this section, come principally from Asian countries.
Hydro-electricity: Harnessing the Potential to fully Power Africa
Energy is undoubtedly essential in the economic development of any country. Electricity is vital for the proper functioning of services such as health and education, as well as for the smooth running of businesses that create employment.
Access to electricity, especially in the rural areas would help in the creation of a certain employment, allowing the structural reduction of the level of poverty. Despite these benefits however, according to the African Development Bank, more than 640 million Africans do not have access to power, which corresponds to an access rate of just over 40%. The same source states that the energy consumption per capita in Sub-Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa) is about 180kWh, a far cry from 13,000 kWh per capita in the U.S, and 6,500 kWh in Europe.
Despite the fact that Hydroelectricity supplies about a fifth of the current energy capacity, this represents only a tenth of its total output. Yet according to the International Energy Agency, the ocean’s renewable energy could supply up to 400% of the global demand. Simply put, the 28 coastal countries in Africa can fully power up their population and can equally export energy to the remaining 20 Sub-Saharan African countries. African states must therefore consider further exploitation of hydroelectricity so as to supply energy to their populations. This would enable the creation of jobs and ensure an all-inclusive growth.
Despite their enormous provision of natural wealth to the population, the over exploitation or the improper exploitation of the oceans, seas, rivers and lakes can have adverse effects on the environment. The Life Index of marine species have indeed decreased by 39% between 1970 and 2000. It is therefore essential to respect certain rules in addressing the environmental production while enjoying the benefits of a Blue Economy. Countries wishing to take advantage of the Blue economy can look into the recommendations made in the Africa’s Blue Economy: A policy Handbook, of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. These policies include, among others, the development of a framework in promoting infrastructure that respects the environment such as green ports and the use of renewable technologies. The report also recommends investment in information services on the environment to facilitate the ready availability of information on the climate and the environment.
Translated by: Tomilade Adesola