What is a Blue Economy?

Progress Namibia - What is a Blue Economy?
19 June 2017

Our fifth National Development Plan has recently been launched and through it we aim to achieve inclusive, sustainable and equitable growth. Well, there is not such thing as 'sustainable growth', but if we mean growth up to a steady state, where everyone has their means met, then perhaps we can reach some form of fluctuating sustainability.

That said, to achieve this, one of the big buzz words is the 'blue economy'. It forms a relatively large component of the NDP5, so of course it warrants discussion. What exactly is a blue economy? The Blue Economy has taken on a life of its own, and faces the same danger of becoming ambiguous as many other terms around sustainable development (much like sustainable development and sustainability themselves) have. The label is now commonly used in the contexts of economics, agriculture and conservation. For some (like us in Namibia), the blue economy means the use of the sea and its resources for sustainable economic development. For others, it simply refers to any economic activity in the maritime sector, whether sustainable or not.

While a green economy is linked to effective use of natural resources, the definition of a blue economy relates to healthy marine resources. Oceans are critical to sustaining Earth's life support systems and the billions of people who are dependent on the oceans for livelihoods, food security, and economic development. A sustainable blue economy should provide not just economic, but also social benefits for present and future generations. A blue economy recognizes marine ecosystems as natural capital, and protects and maintains them accordingly. It also aspires for social and economic stability through the use of clean technology and renewable energy. The blue economy is characterized as inclusive, marked by stakeholder participation, well-informed, precautionary, and adaptive, accountable and transparent, holistic, cross-sectoral, long-term, and innovative and proactive. Embedded in systems thinking.

In Namibia, we have various things on the go that speak to this. For instance, the marine project that is focusing on identifying EBSAs (Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas); we also have large marine areas designated as protected, and we do a ecosystem management approach to our fisheries sector. Public participation and the precautionary approach put on hold phosphate mining.

The blue economy approach to managing ourselves around how we utilise marine resources will be an effective and innovative one that looks after our resources to in turn look after us and our children. One has to applaud the NPC for integrating this approach into our development, and thereby safeguarding one of our important life support systems.

Picture Credit: Justine Braby, !Nami≠nüs / Lüderitz Harbour