Blue economy faces myriad challenges

While government has set ambitious targets to implement a blue economy strategy within four years, research shows several hurdles need to be overcome if this goal is to be realised.

03 March 2019 | Environment

Windhoek • Jana-Mari Smith



“The work on Namibia's blue economy is on-going, yet little information on the status thereof exists,” says Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) research associate Dietrich Remmert in a recently published report.

“However, given the complexity of the subject it is highly questionable if the responsible authorities will be able to meet the target deadlines.”

The report, titled Towards a Blue Economy: Harnessing Namibia's Coastal Resources Sustainably, cautions that a “core issue that needs to be addressed by Namibian policymakers and officials is the idea that significant socio-economic development can be achieved while guaranteeing environmental sustainability.”

He says internationally “it seems the narrative of natural capital and good business as well as the policy response of partnership for sustainable development is driving forward the blue economy concept”.

In Namibia, however, it remains to be seen if extensive socio-economic growth can be realised.

“ This is particularly so for guaranteeing overall environmental sustainability if this growth is dependent on an already overexploited natural environment like the ocean”.



Terminology

The term “blue economy” has only recently entered government terminology, with government committing, in the National Fifth Development Plan (NDP5), to implement a blue economy governance and management system by 2020.

The NDP5 highlights that a blue economy must sustainably maximize economic benefits from marine resources and ensure equitable marine wealth distribution to all Namibians.

In Namibia however, the fact that the country “suffers from a number of governance deficits” should be recognised as potential stumbling blocks to achieving that goal.

Remmert cautions the timeline “seems ambitious for such a complex subject. Given that the attainment of a blue economy is seen as a long-term goal, Namibian policymakers would do well to undertake a thorough, data driven, self-critical and consultative process to realise the NDP5 targets.”

The report, which contains an overview of the growth potential of Namibia's ocean and coastal economy, concludes Namibia's ocean and coastal economy is “fairly well placed for actively driving a holistic blue economy vision that provides for strong, inclusive socio-economic development which is centred on environmental sustainability and the sensible management of natural resources”.

However, numerous challenges and concerns need to be addressed.



Worries

One major issue is “a need to clarify conflicting mandates with regards to natural resource management among the key ministries tasked with governing Namibia's natural marine and coastal resources and to improve overall coordination and information sharing”.

Another “significant concern” is the limited, scientific and other relevant environmental and economic data given the importance attached to information when developing a comprehensive blue economy strategy or road map.

The “dearth of relevant and public available data” to guide planning and policy decisions is coupled with “a lack of transparency regarding what data is available and from which stakeholder”.

The report suggests that Namibia would be wise in developing its blue economy strategy, to look at the approach of others, particularly the Seychelles.

“This country has sought to develop a comprehensive blue economy vision that not only takes into account global research and best practice but has also sought to tailor make its blue growth vision so that it is inclusive and speaks to the country's make up, concerns and development aims.”

Further, Namibia should choose as a departure point existing framework of environmental legislation as well as relevant policies such as the National Policy on Coastal Management.



Data collection

Another focus point should be to direct efforts towards collecting further data, especially regarding Namibia's natural resources and the possible impacts of climate change on the local ocean economy.

The report emphasises that Namibia's blue economy plans should place more emphasis on environmental protection, monitoring and rehabilitation.

“As environmental degradation and economic growth become more and more relevant, Namibia's state and society needs to deepen and widen the discussion around what constitutes sustainable development, how it should be measured and how can it be secured in the long-term.”

Remmert underlines further that Namibia's government “needs to improve its overall capacity regarding policymaking, coordination, delivering effective and efficient services to the public along with the monitoring and enforcement of regulations – particularly those concerned with environmental protection”.

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