President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on Monday swore in his 45-member cabinet. This came days after he assigned portfolios to them.
However, one aspect of the ministerial cabinet that has sparked widespread excitement among economic experts and opinion leaders is the establishment of the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy.
According to experts and stakeholders in the marine and aquatic sector of Nigeria’s economy, the creation of this ministry is a rare display of the federal government’s urgency to breathe life and tap into economic development opportunities at the sea.
They hold the view that the new ministry, if taken seriously and given the adequate resources to function optimally, will set the nation on the path of economic prosperity and growth.
The term ‘Blue Economy’ refers to the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and overall ocean health. It encompasses various sectors such as fisheries, aquaculture, renewable energy, tourism, biotechnology, and more.
For decades, while Nigeria slumbered, other nations like Egypt were reaping bountifully from the blue economy sector.
In 2022, Egypt’s Suez Canal, which serves as a trade route between Europe and Asia, generated $8 billion in revenue from that sector.
Economic analysts say the blue economy sector holds immense potential for economic development, job creation, and providing livelihoods to coastal communities.
They estimate it to be worth more than $1.5 trillion per year globally, provides over 30 million jobs and supplies a vital source of protein to over 3 billion people.
Also, the African Union in a report said the Blue Economy can fetch Africa over $300 billion annually.
Against the backdrop of these prospects and opportunities, the experts gingered Adegboyega Oyetola, the pioneer Minister and his colleagues in that ministry, to fully understand the concept and important role of this unique and innovative ministry.
They expect that the ministry will not only help Nigeria tap into the world’s multi-billion-dollar industry but will strengthen Africa’s largest economy to compete globally.
Mr Jude Nwandu, an economist and managing director of Netolinks Consultancy Lagos said that ‘Blue Economy’ is a concept that has gained prominence in the last decade.
He hinged this on the depleting resources of countries, and the need for nations to diversify their economies to increase revenues to meet the social needs of their people.
“Another major reason why the Blue Economy concept has become very important is the need to safeguard the earth through the sustainable exploitation of marine resources for the benefit of generations unborn,” Nwandu noted.
He also explained that the blue economy concept is based on engendering some Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“An example is SDG 14 which speaks to life underwater. That particular SDG 14 notes that pollution, overfishing, coral bleaching, and coastal ecosystem destruction are all exacerbated by population growth.
“Two-thirds of marine areas have been damaged by human activity and a third of sharks and rays and a third of reef corals are threatened with extinction,” the economist said.
Also, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Olisa Agbakoba, while commending President Tinubu for yielding to the long-awaited policy advocacy of the nation’s maritime community by creating the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy, projected that the government can drive N7trn revenue collection from the maritime sector.
“This has been a major omission. Nigeria is a maritime nation and must advance policy issues to tap into the absolutely massive economic opportunities.
“This is a sector that will, with the proper direction of the government, easily contribute at least N7 trillion to the public revenue,” Agbakoba said.
Also speaking on the prospects of the new ministry, Bashir Jamoh, the director-general of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), said the creation of this ‘long overdue ministry’ will give a massive boost to plans and programs that the President intends to deploy in maritime and aquaculture sector of the economy.
Jamoh further urged Nigeria to take advantage of the opportunities in the Nigerian maritime sector.
“There are new opportunities around us, and I’m glad Nigeria, with the creation of this ministry, will explore the concept of the blue economy.
“The blue economy is the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of the ocean ecosystem.
“Blue Economy activities include Maritime shipping, Fishing & aquaculture, Coastal tourism, Renewable energy, Water desalination, Undersea cabling, Seabed extractive industries and deep-sea mining, Marine genetic resources, and Biotechnology.
“Honestly, this ministry is long overdue and more importantly, to support the diversification of the economy,” Jamoh added.
In the same vein, ship owners under the aegis of Integrity Group of Nigerian Indigenous Shipowners Association (NISA), agreed that the creation of the Ministry of Maritime and Blue Economy is long overdue and would create jobs, sustainable growth and wealth for the country.
They raised high hopes in the competence of the minister to bring the desired result behind the creation of the ministry.
“We commend the government’s vision in entrusting this crucial responsibility to an individual who can bring fresh perspectives and innovative ideas to the table.
“We understand that there may be challenges ahead, and the Integrity Group stands ready to provide support and expertise to ensure the success of initiatives aimed at enhancing the maritime sector.
“We look forward to constructive dialogues and collaborative efforts that will further strengthen the industry’s role in the national economy,” NISA said in a statement it issued during the weekend.
Appraising the potential of the Blue economy, and setting the agenda for the new ministry, Mr Iroche, a scholar at the African Studies Centre, University of Oxford, England, argued that the move by the government to delve into the potential of Nigeria’s untapped marine and blue economy must be established, with a clear understanding of the concept and the immense benefits it holds for the nation.
He said that the creation of the blue economy shows that governments were recognising the crucial need for the country to diversify its economy, moving away from their heavy dependence on a single commodity- crude oil.
Iroche noted that the fluctuating global demand for oil, plus the environmental concerns make it imperative for Nigeria to seek alternative sources of revenue.
He stressed that the blue economy presents a promising avenue for sustainable economic growth, creating new job opportunities and attracting foreign investments.
“By fully embracing the blue economy, Nigeria stands to gain numerous advantages. First, it offers an opportunity for economic diversification, reducing the country’s overreliance on crude oil.
“The fisheries sector, for instance, holds immense potential for Nigeria’s economic development. With a coastline stretching over 850 kilometres, the country possesses abundant fishery resources.
“However, due to limited infrastructure, outdated fishing techniques, and inadequate regulatory frameworks, Nigeria’s fisheries sector remains largely underdeveloped.
“By investing in modern fishing technologies, improving infrastructure, and implementing effective regulations, Nigeria can significantly increase its fish production, both for domestic consumption and export. This would not only boost the economy but enhance food security and alleviate poverty in coastal communities,” he said.
Nigeria’s blue economy potential extends to maritime transport.
A report from the United Nations Conference of Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said that 80 per cent of global trade is moved through the sea.
The UNCTAD estimates the volume of trade that moves on the sea daily at $3.4 trillion. This is a huge revenue for nations that have positioned themselves to reap the opportunities of a blue economy.
And Iroche believes that the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy must wake up fast and join the league of nations enjoying the bounty.
“With our strategic location in the Gulf of Guinea, Nigeria can become a major hub for maritime trade and logistics in West Africa,” he said.
“By developing and modernising its ports, improving connectivity, and enhancing maritime security, Nigeria can attract more shipping companies, increase trade volumes, and generate substantial revenue. This would not only benefit the country’s economy but also strengthen its position as a regional economic powerhouse.
“Renewable energy is another aspect of the blue economy that Nigeria can harness. The country’s vast water resources provide an ideal environment for the development of hydroelectric power and other forms of renewable energy.
“The ministry would have to synchronise with the Ministry of Power. By investing in renewable energy infrastructure, Nigeria can reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, mitigate climate change, and provide clean and affordable energy to its citizens.
“This would not only contribute to sustainable development but create employment opportunities and attract investments in the renewable energy sector.
“Nigeria’s blue economy potential extends to tourism. It would therefore be important that the ministry collaborates and cooperates with the Ministry of Tourism in order to promote tourism and achieve its full potential.
“The country’s beautiful coastlines, diverse marine ecosystems, and rich cultural heritage make it an attractive destination for both domestic and international tourists.
“By investing in coastal tourism infrastructure, promoting sustainable tourism practices, and preserving marine biodiversity, Nigeria can boost its tourism industry, create jobs, and generate revenue.
“This would not only contribute to economic growth but also promote cultural exchange and environmental conservation,” he added.
Iroche, however, added that to fully harness this potential in the blue economy sector, the government must invest in modern technologies, improve infrastructure, implement effective regulations, and promote sustainable practices.
“By doing so, Nigeria can pave the way for sustainable economic growth, job creation, and a brighter future for its citizens,” he said.
He urged concerted efforts from the government in strengthening the new ministry.
“The potentials of the blue economy are legion but to actualize them, clear strategies should be developed and a sustained commitment and political will to implement the strategies must be put in place,” he said.