Actions outlined to revive Western Indian ocean economy

Fishermen on the Oubangui River
Copyright: Panos

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  • Increased population growth and use of coastal resources threaten ten countries
  • Report outlines actions to boost sustainable development of the countries
  • Experts call on the nations to use science and innovation to aid policies

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[NAIROBI] A new report has identified actions for protecting and restoring coastal ecosystems of the Western Indian Ocean to help boost sustainable development and the economies of nations that form the region.

The region could suffer severe losses if current pressures on the ocean are not alleviated, according to a report launched in Kenya last week (31 May) by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Boston Consulting Group and Coastal Oceans Research and Development in the Indian Ocean East Africa.

One of the authors of the report, Edward Kimakwa, a marine expert with WWF-Kenya, said during the launch that there is need to invest in research to build a credible scientific knowledge base needed for sustainable use of the ocean resources.

“For instance, you need to do research for establishing the rate of oceans depletion to inform decisions that you will take for restoration,” he tells SciDev.Net.

“Unfortunately,” Kimakwa says, “there is very little scientific information about our ocean to inform sustainable development and policy work. We have some information but it is very scanty.”

To understand oceans’ sytems, their interconnectedness and the impact of human activities on them, we have to do enough research, says Kimakwa.

“There can be no healthy economic future for the countries of the Western Indian Ocean without protection and restoration of the ecosystems.”


The report launched slightly ahead of Word Oceans Day today (8 May) identifies rapid increase in human population, high reliance on coastal and marine resources such as fisheries for sustenance and livelihoods as some of the key drivers of overexploitation and degradation of coastal ecosystems.

For example, in 2015, ten countries of the Western Indian Ocean  ̶  Comoros, France (Reunion), Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa and Tanzania  ̶   had a population of 220 million people, an increase of 280 per cent since 1975, with the population projected  to increase by nearly 50 per cent to 306 million by 2030.  

The report outlines 15-year actions including implementing effective management of ocean assets, ensuring sustainability of small-scale and industrial fisheries and aquaculture, and implementing integrated ocean planning and management to revive marine and coastal ecosystems to aid economic development.

 “There can be no healthy economic future for the countries of the Western Indian Ocean without protection and restoration of the ecosystems that underpin industries like fishing and tourism,” says the report. “The time is now for a transformation to economic practices that include all relevant stakeholders and that value and nurture the natural asset base.” 

Kimakwa tells SciDev.Net that unless the ocean's full contributions are recognised and strong action taken to preserve the natural assets that underpin them, the benefits it provides will diminish rapidly over the next decades.

Countries that border the Western Indian Ocean region need to prioritise sustainable development through investing in natural assets and prudent economic management to boost economic development for present and future generations, Kimakwa adds.

Yuvan Beejadhur, ocean economy specialist with Beejadhur Ocean Solutions, a consulting firm based in Switzerland and the United States, says that the blue economy contributes to the development of Eastern and Southern Africa countries because they depend on core sectors such as fisheries and aquaculture, tourism and shipping.

He encourages large-scale investments from local, regional and international sources and use of knowledge of what has worked elsewhere combined with local solutions and local contexts.

“Science and innovation together with solid knowledge of sea, oceans, local context, predictable finance, traditional knowledge, new centres of excellence are fundamental to ensuring sustainable exploitation of the blue economy [for] countries along from Somalia to South Africa,” Beejadhur explains, adding that science could help policymakers make better long-term decisions on coastal ecosystems.

This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.


David Obura and others Reviving the Western Indian Ocean economy: actions for sustainable future — summary (WWF International, 2017)