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Blue Economy: South-South Stakeholders To Work Towards Realization Of Stronger Economy

Determined to look beyond the over-dependence on Oil and Gas mono-economy, stakeholders in the maritime industry and Leaders of the Coalition of South-South Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines & Agriculture (COSSCCIMA) have resolved to diversify into a blue economy.

Arising from a one-day summit on Thursday, May 11, 2023, at Watbridge Hotels and Suites, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State with the theme: Harnessing the Potentials of Blue Economy (Ocean) through private sector participation for regional development,” the stakeholders x-rayed the various challenges bedevilling the potential realization of the benefits of Blue Economy in the country and South-South region in particular.

blue economy and south-south

In his brief remarks to set the tone, the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Trade and Investment, Engr. Camillus Umoh said the Blue Economy has a ready and available market and is made up of replenishable energy, unlike the oil and gas sector which will dry up someday.

He highlighted that Akwa Ibom State has a long coastal line of about 129km and abundant tourism potential, making the state a tourist delight.

“Thank God the incoming Governor, Pastor Umo Bassey Eno is already a player in the tourism and hospitality industry and will see the potentials in the sector as low-hanging fruits”.

blue economy and south-south

The commissioner maintained that the multiplier effect of the Blue Economy will be enormous and will add so much to the system and other value chains, stressing that the people must strategize and be intentional about developing the Blue Economy.

Related: Abandoned Mines: A Danger to Communities Across Nigeria

The president of COSSCCIMA, Dr Okon Emah, in his welcome address, said the mission of the association is to advocate favourable policies that encourage both local and international investment in the region while expanding through technology transfer and knowledge of the best practices for its members and SMEs in the South-South region.

He says, “The South/Niger Delta region has vast economic growth and development potential. These potentials can be harnessed through the development of the Blue Economy, which encompasses the economic activities related to the ocean, including Marine tourism, aquaculture, shipping and offshore oil and gas exploration”.

blue economy and south-south stakeholders forum

He further highlighted that the region and Nigeria at large lose revenue from the Blue Economy tremendously by way of piracy, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities and marine pollution, stressing that the losses reflect heavily on the Gross Domestic Product and remain the root causes for hostilities amongst coastal communities, pervasive poverty and loss of livelihoods.”

He reiterated that the 1st International Summit of the Association on Blue Economy Investment was designed to bring together all stakeholders for the sustainability of the Ocean Economy.

Speaking on the topic: Blue Economy Opportunities for the Private Sector – challenges and Chances, a professor of Economics and Public Policy at the University of Uyo, Prof Akpan Hogan Ekpo said over three billion people around the world depend on the ocean for livelihood while 80 per cent of major businesses are done using the seas.

He opined that the ocean and seas have provided food and business sources while human activities prioritising economic gains pose a danger to the Blue Economy.

Read Also: PPDF Presents Report on Impact of Gas Flaring in Akwa Ibom State

According to Akpan Ekpo, a former Vice-chancellor of the University of Uyo, ” There should be an immediate action to safeguard the ocean and people who depend on it.

Speaking on the peep into the Niger Delta region, Ekpo suggested the need for government to encourage the private sector to invest in Marine businesses.
“People in the South-South region are miserably poor and investment in the sector will enhance their fortunes. The states are currently surviving on federal allocation except for Lagos and Kano. Others must invest in Blue Economy to increase their internally generated revenue (IGR) as revenue from oil is no longer realistic and will soon dry up,” he stated.

He cited some of the challenges facing the realization of the Blue Economy including lack of awareness and paucity of information, others are difficulties in getting bank loans, lack of capital, hostile investment climate and insecurity among many others.

Ekpo bemoans the government’s lukewarm attitude towards Marine investment and businesses, citing delays in approving genuine proposals as a major setback in the country’s realization of the Blue Economy.

He appealed to government at all levels to engage the best brains in the management of the economy, stressing that once education and health systems malfunction, the economy collapses.

“We must take advantage of the opportunities provided by the Blue Economy as it will create more jobs for people in the coastal communities and strengthen support along the Blue Economy value chain”.

Read Also: MDAs To Collab With AKIRS In Growing Maritime-Related IGR

In his goodwill message, the President of the Nigerian Association of Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Mines and Agriculture, Ide John Udeagbala noted that the concept of Blue Economy as a new frontier for economic development in Nigeria is a sector yet to be explored.

He appealed to the government to help remove whatever barriers that will slow the realization of the objective while urging people to take advantage of the summit to synergise and make a remarkable impact on the Blue Economy investment.

On her own, a retired general manager of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Mrs Ann Ukpong said the ports are the Blue Economy’s live wire and urged the South-South region stakeholders to pursue Port development as what is obtainable so far in the region is miserably low.

“The entire ports in the South-South region of the nation cannot handle up to 25 per cent of businesses coming into Nigeria, no port in the South-South has roll in and roll off terminal except Lagos.

“The chamber of commerce in the South-South should embark on advocacy roles to create awareness on Blue Economy investment”.

In his contributions, Elder Nseyen Ebong, a former Rector of Nigerian Maritime Academy, Oron called for immediate human capacity development in the area.

According to him, “I have appealed to the Vice Chancellors of the University of Uyo and Akwa Ibom State University to create faculty of Marine Sciences in the institution and further urged the Rector, Akwa Ibom State Polytechnic to create a Department of Marine Studies. We cannot afford to look helpless in search of capable hands when the lofty projects come on stream”.

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