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Capitalizing On Blue Economy in Zanzibar, Lessons From Other Economies.

The blue economy has the potential to completely transform Zanzibar’s economy if strategically adopted by the country. Beyond the few sectors that have been identified by the government and key stakeholders in the blue economy ecosystem, there are other areas of huge potential.

Blue Economy

Blue Economy relates to how humans use the ocean, especially in the context of the economic benefit derived from it. The adoption and usage of the ocean for economics is termed as the Blue Economy. A Blue Economy embraces the economic, social, and environmental benefits of the ocean, and as such is also considered an alternative development paradigm.

Globally, the figures for the Blue Economy (BE) are impressive and are supported by a number of recent reports. The OECD reports (2016) shows the Blue Economy is currently conservatively valued at USD $1.5 trillion (2.5% of world gross value added) and employs 31 million people. By 2030 this is projected to increase to USD $3 trillion, with the growth primarily driven by aquaculture (8.5% per annum currently), offshore wind, fish processing, and shipbuilding and repair. The blue economy is particularly critical for the future of island nations.

Oceans cover 72% of the surface of the blue planet and constitute more than 95% of the biosphere. Life originated in the oceans and they continue to support all life today by generating oxygen, absorbing carbon dioxide, recycling nutrients, and regulating global climate and temperature. The marine and coastal environment also constitute a key resource for the important global tourism industry; supporting all aspects of the tourism development cycle from infrastructure and the familiar “sun, sand and sea” formula to the diverse and expanding domain of nature-based tourism. Oceans provide a substantial portion of the global population with food and livelihoods and are the means of transport for 80% of global trade.

A number of countries in Africa are looking to capitalize on the maritime industry and the sector is considered to be among the fastest-growing sectors in the continent. The industry will have a huge economic benefit to the African countries. Somalia and Kenya are already exploring the lucrative fishing industry by exploring ways to establish sustainable businesses. Somalia boasts approximately 3,000 kilometers of coastline and an ocean territory that stretches around 120 kilometers offshore. According to the Secure Fisheries’ report Securing Somali Fisheries, the report says there are plenty of opportunities to take advantage of the export market for fish species. Zanzibar is strategically positioned to conduct similar research to explore opportunities in the fishery sector in the Isles.

African Blue Economy sectors and components generate today a value of USD 296 billion with 49 million jobs. It is projected that by 2030, figures will be respectively USD 405 billion and 57 million jobs while in 2063 estimates would respectively be USD 576 billion of value created and 78 millions of jobs. The number of jobs would correspond to about 5% of the active population in 2063 — Blue Economy Africa Strategy

Another example, once a desperately poor Danish colony, Iceland has emerged as a prosperous society. Since the mid-1970s,32 improved governance of fisheries has played a central role, creating jobs, generating export revenues, financing public investments — and pushing Iceland to the top of the Human Development Index, Africa Progress Report — Grain Fish Money.

Zooming-In Zanzibar

Zanzibar is located in the Indian Ocean Rim with a long coastline and vast ocean resources. The total population of Zanzibar was 1.3 million in 2012 with a density of 530 people per square kilometer. Sectors such as fisheries and tourism play an important role in the Zanzibar economy. Zanzibar faces some challenges as it transitions from the traditional fishing sector to a more sophisticated industry. There are some emerging demands from the tourism and energy sector that relate to the Blue Economy. Three areas have been identified as key strategic areas for Zanzibar blue economy; fisheries, Seaweed Production, and Coastal Tourism. This is an area where there has been a lot of emphasis on.

Zanzibar | Photo Courtesy — Unsplash

Zanzibar can adopt a blue economy as a tool to empower grassroots communities involved in the farming of seaweed. The sector can be further advanced to ensure grassroots farmers are benefited from one of Zanzibar’s key exports since 1990. Further investment in the manufacturing and production processes, and encouraging systematic production of well packed and branded products will further grow the sector and increase its contribution to the national economy.

Already companies such as Seaweed Company Zanzibar, a Polish company, are capitalizing the market with well-branded products from seaweed and other sea products. Seaweed farming currently employs 25,000 people, mostly rural women, while upwards of 150,000 people benefit indirectly from the seaweed industry. With strategic interventions from the government and further investment, the sector can create more opportunities. For example, even though Seaweed is on-demand most of the rural farmers specifically women can not cultivate a high-value variety of Seaweed since the cultivation of those varieties takes place in deep water and is highly specialized.

Countries in advanced economies in Europe and North America see more integration of technology in the sector for value addition. Due to the variety of products that can be produced from Seaweed, Seaweed can play a crucial role in Zanzibar’s industrialization agenda. Even though most farmed seaweed is consumed in food, extracts are used in a wide variety of products including; toothpaste, cosmetics, medicines, pet food, etc These often contain hydrocolloids derived from seaweed, which have gelling or thickening properties. Also, more products are coming, with other firms working on textiles and plastic alternatives, including biodegradable packaging, water capsules, and drinking straws.

What Needs to Be Done

For Zanzibar to fully capitalize on the blue economy the country needs to address several issues that seem to be the obstacles facing the sector. There is a need to invest more in human capital, lack of technical expertise and a shortage of experienced personnel will be one of the major challenges in adopting the blue economy. Zanzibar needs to invest in upskilling Zanzibaris youths to capitalize on the opportunity brought about by the growing global maritime industry. Jobs created from the sector include; shipbuilding experts, marine equipment experts, seaports and related services, recreational boat experts, coastal tourism, deep-sea fishing, offshore oil, and gas extraction. offshore and coastal wind energy, etc.

Skills in these areas will allow Zanzibaris youths to capitalize on opportunities emerging from the local, regional, and global markets. Zanzibar academic institutions can form strategic partnerships with globally reputed institutes in the sector to co-design programs and courses that will ensure Zanzibari youths stay relevant in the maritime industry job market. In Europe, alone seaports and recreational boating generate 284,000 and 253,000 jobs respectively according to the European Commission. All sea-related sectors generated approximately 5 million jobs in 2004/2005.

There is a clear need to expand the current port of Malindi due to congestion in order to accommodate the future growth of cargo and passenger traffic arriving in Zanzibar. The current Malindi Port is highly congested, operating at and sometimes above capacity, and is confined to a small area on the outskirts of the city, limiting its potential to expand and creating congestion around the port area. According to a preliminary assessment of Multipurpose Port Development in Zanzibar done in 2014 Approximately 90% of total cargo shipped in containers is offloaded within the port, further congesting the port area and reducing the speed at which cargo can be offloaded and moved in and out. Due to congestion, ships must currently anchor at sea and wait for the main berth to vacate, sometimes 4–5 days, before being able to offload cargo.

To capitalize on the port and shipping industry there is a need to explore alternatives to the port or expanding the existing port. In 2013, the port handled approximately 70,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) and 260,000 tons of general cargo and processed a total of 1.5 million passengers. Port Louis Harbour (PLH), the main port of the Republic of Mauritius handles 99.5% of the country’s total volume of external trade, that is almost 7.5million tonnes of cargo annually and the Mauritius Container Terminal (MCT) capacity is currently at approximately 1 million TEUs.

There is also not much information about the sector, intentionally the government and other key stakeholders need to invest more money in research and exploration to uncover untapped opportunities from the sector. Data and insights generated from these researchers will encourage regional and international investors to develop an interest in investing in Zanzibar’s blue economy.

There is also a need to strategically invest in infrastructure through local and international collaborations through PPP and other approaches e.g bilateral collaborations etc. The sector should be made more lucrative and transformed encouraging new entrants in the sector hence creating future experts. The commitment towards a blue economy should originate from the office with the highest authority to influence change to encourage a faster pace of adoption of proposed interventions.

Important to Note

With all the great opportunities that the Blue Economy will bring there are some key critical issues that need to be put into account if Zanzibar is to leap the benefits of the Blue Economy; sustainable use of biodiversity, food security also related to the sustainable use of biodiversity, unsustainable fishing, climate change, and managing carbon budgets, pollution, and marine debris and finally, governance and international cooperation.

Insights Shared By| Sahara Ventures Senior Consultant.



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Jumanne Rajabu Mtambalike

Jumanne Rajabu Mtambalike

Entrepreneur, TZ Patriot, Loves Tech, Founder, Project Management Consulting firm, Co-Founded and Sahara Accelerator.