The Director of the Institute of Environment and Sanitation Studies at the University of Ghana, Professor Kwasi Appeaning Addo, has emphasised the need for urgent development of a comprehensive blue economy strategy.
A blue ocean economy refers to the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs while preserving the ocean ecosystem’s health. He explained that this has potential to solve challenges and aid economic recovery, but only if a comprehensive plan can be put in place.
With a coastline of about 550 kilometres, extending to about 200 nautical miles seaward and making up a total exclusive economic zone of over 218,000 square kilometres, the country is well-positioned to benefit from the world’s ocean resources if sustainably managed.
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Currently, the fisheries sector alone supports the livelihoods of some 2.5 million Ghanaians and contributes about 4 percent to our GDP. However, the ocean – which is home to many complex ecosystems – faces significant threats of marine and nutrient pollution, resource depletion and climate change, all of which are caused primarily by human actions. These threats place further pressure on environmental systems like biodiversity and natural infrastructure, while creating global socio-economic problems including health, safety and financial risks.
Professor Addo’s call for a comprehensive blue economy strategy, therefore, underscores the importance of adopting a holistic approach to leverage the country’s marine resources effectively. Such a strategy would involve multiple sectors, including fisheries, aquaculture, maritime transport, marine tourism, offshore energy and coastal infrastructure development.
He said this at a National Blue Economy summit titled Ghana’s Sustainable Ocean Plan – the journey so far in Accra, and urged government to engage various stakeholders including academia, industry experts and relevant government agencies toward harnessing the sector’s potential.
This collaboration, Professor Addo – who’s also a sustainable ocean plan (SOP) advisor – said, can help identify key areas of focus, establish policies and regulations, and develop sustainable practices that balance economic growth with environmental conservation.
According to the 2021 population and housing census, Ghana’s unemployment rate almost tripled in little more than a decade. More than 1.55 million people, or 13.4 percent of the country’s economically active population, are out of work per the population and housing census. The 2010 census recorded an unemployment rate of 5.3 percent.
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By prioritising the blue economy, Professor Addo believes the country can address its unemployment challenges while simultaneously promoting sustainable development through the implementation of a well-crafted strategy that could lead to the creation of new jobs, improved livelihoods and long-term economic growth.
“Let’s develop a comprehensive blue economy strategy guided by a sustainable ocean plan, this is critical. We need to develop a strategy, and that strategy must anchored within the sustainable ocean plan that’s being developed. Once that is done we can achieve a lot,” he stated.
“The ocean has potential to provide huge employment opportunities for our people. The ocean has potential to reduce the poverty level in this country if we can manage the resources within it effectively,” Professor Addo added.
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Meanwhile, President Nana Akufo-Addo reiterated the country’s commitment to creating a thriving, equitable and sustainable ocean economy.
To achieve this, government will therefore ramp up its close collaboration with the private sector, civil society organisations (CSOs), academia and multinational corporations to develop suitable policies and programmes to aggressively protect the country’s coastal and marine resources.
“Given the present economic, environmental and geopolitical context, the country’s ocean presents an incredible opportunity to accelerate the development agenda of our beloved country and improve the well-being of our people,” said President Akufo-Addo, who’s a member of the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy.
The National Blue Economy Summit is aimed at mobilising transformative ocean action to achieve the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The NBES also aims to provide an opportunity to bring national attention to the importance of ocean action for achieving the SDGs.