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The importance of SDG on Oceans and Seas for Africa’s sustainable development

dlaminiAs the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are coming to an end in 2015, global discussions are on-going to determine the focus of the post-2015 development agenda. In February 2014, the Global Ocean Forum (GOF) presented a Sustainable Development Goal on Oceans and Seas (SDG on Oceans and Seas) at the 8th Session of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals at the United Nations Headquarters, New York.

The GOF's proposal emphasised the centrality of oceans in tackling the three pillars of sustainable development (environment, economy and society), and the essentiality of good ocean governance and capacity development to ensure the achievement of sustainable development in these three pillars.

While the SDG on Oceans and Seas is a global discourse, this article unpacks an African perspective on oceans governance and maritime security relating to coastline states in Africa, and to strengthen the concept of the blue economy as a vehicle for sustainable development and poverty eradication.

According to the GOF advocacy, SDG on Oceans and Seas would build on the achievements of the MDGs by making healthy, productive and resilient ocean and seas an explicit part of the world's sustainable development agenda.1 Developing nations in the global south, especially African coastal states and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), are faced with challenges posed by the lack of technical, institutional, technological and financial support to enhance capacity as stipulated in the Rio+20 outcome document paragraph 160.2

Basically, an anticipated stand-alone SDG on Oceans and Seas would support the global commitments made at the 1992, 2002 and 2012 World Summits on Sustainable Development and the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. For example, the Rio+20 sustainable development summit outcome recognised the centrality of the oceans and the concept of the Blue Economy as important tools available to achieve sustainable development. Again, it is recognised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) that Blue Economy is suitable in meeting sustainable development goals. The FOA is also assisting in the development of sustainable marine fisheries and aquaculture in countries around the world.3 Currently the FAO is working with Indonesia to implement the concept of Blue Economy in Indonesia which is expected to create 77,700 new jobs and to generate income of US$114.88 million per year. This is one of the examples how the concept of Blue Economy can be beneficial as part of the SDG process

Notably, these discussions have been taking place in Africa too. The African Union (AU) during its 22nd summit January has set a period from 2015-2025 as the 'Decade of African Seas and Oceans' and the date 25 July as the African Day of Seas and Oceans.4 Generally Seas and Oceans are usually one of the aspects that are overlooked when it comes to Africa's sustainable development. It is significant for Africans to realise that many people depend on the oceans activities for their daily survival, and Africa cannot talk of sustainable development unless the issues of oceans governance and security are tackled.

The concept of Blue Economy encapsulates all the potential of the oceanic resources which offers a platform for Africa's transformation both in terms of Agenda 2063 and in terms of the post 2015 Development Agenda and the sustainable development goals.5 This became evident during the AU summit in January 2014, when the heads of state agreed that "Africa's oceans are essential to the sustainable development of the continent and that they should play a critical role in shaping Africa's common position on the post-2015 development agenda and the formulation of the sustainable development goals."6 However, there are maritime challenges that compromise Africa's ability to fully explore oceans resources, one being oceans governance and security issues.

According to the 2050 Africa's Integrated Maritime Strategy, illegal activities in the Africa's maritime domain, in past decades have caused a loss of revenue that amounts to hundreds of billions of US dollars. For example, between 2003 and 2011 piracy in the Gulf of Guinea accounted for 30 percent of all attacks in African waters.7 It is estimated that in 2012 Senegal lost as much as $300-million or 2% of its national GDP to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.8 This is linked to the fragmented ocean governance structures of African coastline states and the need for capacity building and infrastructure to strengthen maritime security in their respective waters. In order to deal with these challenges, it is stated in the Africa Progress Report 2014 titled, 'financing Africa's Green and Blue Revolutions,' that the global community must act collectively to unleash a blue revolution for ocean management to tackle unreported and unregulated fishing and other activities in the ocean.9

In conclusion, it must recognised that Africa's renewable fishery resources, aquaculture and intact ecosystems directly contribute to the livelihoods of many Africans and are a potential source of wealth and opportunity.10 In this essence it is considered highly significant to prioritise the promotion of sustainable development and cooperation by focusing on the concept of the Blue Economy. It is in the interest of Africa to have an economic transformation that is based on an inclusive growth from its extensive fisheries in order to provide a sustainable long-term growth that will improve the lives and prospect of all Africans. Again, African leaders must adopt realistic approaches against destructive activities such as overfishing and pollution, which have had an adverse effect on water resources in and around the continent.11 Adopting such realistic approaches will help Africa to work better with the global community to improve oceans governance and maritime security. This is where the SDG on Oceans and Seas will also play an important role for Africa's sustainable development

Mr. Kenny Dlamini holds a BA Hons in Political & International Studies from Rhodes University and is a research assistant at the IGD. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the IGD

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