The Indian Ocean islands of Zanzibar have great opportunity to benefit from the development of the blue economy which includes clean water, marine fishing, transport and tourism.
At the same time, the ocean surrounding the islands absorbs large amounts of carbon dioxide, a major source that regulates global warming.
The ocean is also a source of various forms of renewable energy that can be of great value to the Zanzibar blue economy.
Zanzibar has been convening meetings bringing together the Diaspora and experts from various countries with the aim of ensuring that the islands benefit from the untapped sector.
To promote awareness and integration of concepts in national programmes, the government established the Ministry of Blue Economy.
To utilise the resources of the blue economy, an integrated approach is needed, bringing together science, research, technology and a wide range of disciplines to identify possible interactions and collaborations between its various components.
Zanzibar needs to develop an effective strategy to its end but there are several obstacles to be removed.
First of all, Zanzibar needs to strengthen its expertise in the water and land use sector in order to assess and monitor water pollution, a critical area in this regard.
The country does not have a significant number of agricultural extension workers to advise farmers on minimal use of fertilizers and pesticides that pollute our rivers and seas.
Zanzibar also lacks expertise in marine technology and infrastructure.
Financial support and cooperation between business, government, donors, non-governmental organizations, institutions and other stakeholders is essential for a country to develop its blue economy.
We must use the resources and design our national blue economy plan, and real budget, to attract domestic and foreign funding.
The growth of our blue economy requires further research and innovation, especially related to its coastal and marine areas.
However, research is not seen as a national priority and does not receive the financial support it deserves.
Even where funding is available for blue economy research, it is channeled into other activities of ministries, departments and institutions.
For the sustainable development of Zanzibar’s blue economy, the government should focus on integrating various activities into a single governing body, with the following steps: -.
The first step must be to train a critical mass of personnel in key sectors of the blue economy.
The European Union has invested in the education of young cadres of its member states to improve modernisation and expand the maritime sector of its blue economy.
Zanzibar should adopt a similar approach. Colleges and universities should develop blue economy education curricula and citizen science should be promoted.
The next important step is to focus on adding value to existing blue economy activities.
As recommended in many conferences, Seychelles Islands should be the best practice where citizens are encouraged to share their skills and expertise to generate revenue and increase the value of tourism.
South Africa has adopted a similar strategy known as “Operation Phakisa,” which prioritises maritime skills and education to promote cooperation and attract international private investors.
Third, existing artisanal activities related to the blue economy in local communities must be supported and scaled up.
For example, fishermen in the coastal zone should be encouraged to improve fish storage, using solar-powered refrigerators and deep freezers to minimise post-harvest losses.
Fourth, fish processing plants must be built in strategic areas. Processing of caught fish in the country reduces post-harvest losses, increases product value and creates jobs. Local and central governments should partner with donors to fund such programmes.
Fifth, deep-ocean fishing should be promoted. This will pose a challenge because much larger and more sophisticated boats are required to exploit deep-sea fisheries.
With the current increase in foreign vessels in Zanzibar waters, a fish processing plant should be built in coastal areas. Coastal protection also needs to be strengthened to protect and encourage local fishermen to venture into deep water.
And sixth, other blue economy coastal activities should be supported and adequately protected. Businesses should work closely with the KMKM to protect their offshore assets and activities, including tourism and oil and gas extraction expected later.
The government should establish partnerships with oil and gas companies that want to invest in maritime activities while taking into account the potential risks to the environment.
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