Tuesday 11 May 2021
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Namibia should harness the ocean economy to promote growth

In May this year, Debmarine Namibia announced that it will build a state of art diamond recovery ship costing US$ 468 million. The vessel is slated to be operational by the year 2022. When in operation the vessel is expected to harvest 500,000 carats per year. Debmarine, which is a joint venture between Anglo-American and the Namibian Government, has demonstrated its faith in the Ocean economy by continuing to invest in marine diamonds.
Namibia established its Exclusive Economic Zone in 1990 in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
This means that the country has long time ago recognized the economic importance of its marine resources. As the country struggles to revive the economy it is now high time that our leaders place Ocean Economic Development as priority number one. Namibia’s coastline extends more than 1500 Km from the mouth of the Kunene River in the north to the mouth of the Orange River in the south. The Namibian Exclusive Economic Zone is therefore vast. Its economic potential is enormous.
The country should therefore focus its attention to the exploitation of resources within the Exclusive Economic Zone beyond fishing. Globally there is growing interest by governments and the private sector in exploiting and expanding the Ocean economy which is now called the Blue Economy.
In a paper titled, “Towards A Blue Economy”, researcher Dietrich Remmert of the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) defined the Blue Economy as an approach aiming to significantly increase and harness the economic value of the Ocean in an environmentally sustainable manner.
This means that the blue growth should go along with environmental protection. This goal should be achieved through a partnership between Government and the Private Sector. Government should develop a comprehensive Blue Economy Policy which will guide the activities of investors in the marine economy. The Blue Economy Policy should be translated into an actionable Blue Economy Plan.
Currently marine economic activities are taking place in an uncoordinated fashion. Mining of diamonds on the Ocean floor takes place without due regard to its effect on the marine life.
Oil and gas exploration are left to private companies without any monitoring. The controversial proposal to mine phosphate on the Sea floor has somewhat awakened public interest on marine environment.
There is therefore an urgent need to establish a coordinating mechanism to ensure that the marine economy is exploited in a sustainable manner.
The harnessing of the Ocean economy can take place in different forms. Currently fisheries and diamonds mining are the main marine economic activities.
The Port of Walvis Bay with its extended port facilities has a potential of serving as a gateway of export and import of goods by neighbouring countries. This will boost trade and transport as Namibia serves as a logistic hub for Southern Africa. This will require investment into railways. It is perhaps high time for Namibia to consider Public-Private Partnership in investing in the railways.
The goal is to attract private investment in the rehabilitation of the railway line and the construction of dry ports at towns such as Grootfontein, Gobabis and Oshikango.
The N$ 180 million Ombepo Wind Farm near Luderitz should demonstrate the viability of exploiting renewable energy along the Atlantic Coast.
If this project proves successful, wind energy could be used for desalination.
This will open- up the coastal areas for resettlement and the expansion of aquaculture and mariculture economic activities. Oyster and abalone farming will boost the country’s export earnings and the balance of payment.
Private capital will be crucial in boosting aquaculture.
Exploration of oil and gas resources off the Namibian coast is continuing. With new technologies in this area prospects of finding such resources are positive.
If that happens the importance of the Blue Economy to the wellbeing of the Nation shall be enhanced.
Meanwhile, the efforts of developing the Kudu gas are underway. New players from Singapore appear to be making some progress. Kudu gas has a potential of making the country self-sufficient in energy provision. Energy sufficiency is likely to attract investors into manufacturing. Namibia could then serve as a bridgehead for inter-African trade.
Eco-tourism and recreational activities along the Atlantic coast could be further developed.
The many islands off the coast could be developed if wind and solar energy could be used to desalinate sea water. Boating off the Namibian coast could provide recreation to tourists.
What is required is investment capital. To attract such capital Namibia should create an investment climate and position itself as an investment friendly country.
The ocean economy may be the new economic frontier for Namibia. What is needed is to identify investment opportunities in natural marine resources, renewable energy, transport and trade, shipping and logistics, fish farming, extraction of non-living resources, eco-tourism and other resources.
Remmert is correct when he stated that 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. It is important therefore for Namibia to prioritize the Blue Economy as an engine of economic development and growth.

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