The 2nd Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) Forum for Africa, currently taking place from 5th to the 6th of November 2023 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, is a pivotal event in the quest for a sustainable Blue Economy in Africa. Organized by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO) and its Sub Commissions, in collaboration with various regional institutions and initiatives, this forum bring together experts, policymakers, and stakeholders to explore the potential of Marine Spatial Planning in driving Africa’s sustainable Blue Economy.
Marine Spatial Planning, as a public process, involves the meticulous analysis and allocation of the spatial and temporal distribution of human activities in marine areas. This process aims to harmonize ecological, economic, and social objectives, all of which are determined through a political framework. By striking a balance between conservation and sustainable development, MSP has emerged as a critical tool for managing marine resources and fostering responsible economic growth.
While the MSP approach has gained global recognition, many countries still require support in the development and implementation of their marine spatial plans. This need for assistance is particularly pronounced in Africa, where the potential of the Blue Economy remains largely untapped. The 2nd MSP Forum for Africa aims to address this gap by addressing the unique challenges and opportunities associated with Marine Spatial Planning on the African continent.
The importance of MSP in enabling the Sustainable Blue Economy cannot be overstated. The African Blue Economy Strategy (ABES) recognizes MSP as a fundamental enabler for harnessing the immense potential of Africa’s coastal and ocean resources. ABES seeks to drive economic growth, alleviate poverty, and promote environmental sustainability through the sustainable use of marine resources.
The Updated MSP Roadmap, a collaborative initiative by IOC-UNESCO and the European Commission, places significant emphasis on “capacity development and awareness.” This strategic focus is geared towards facilitating knowledge exchange, transfer, and creating a heightened awareness of MSP’s benefits and best practices. It is through such capacity building that African nations can effectively implement MSP, unlocking the full potential of their marine resources while preserving the delicate ecological balance.
Crucially, the updated MSP Roadmap stipulates the need to “build a network of Regional MSP Forums and Platforms” in collaboration with interested regional institutions and initiatives working on MSP. These forums are envisioned as a platform for cooperation and collaboration among African nations, essential for addressing the complex challenges and opportunities presented by marine spatial planning.
One of the key participants in the 2nd MSP Forum for Africa is the African Union InterAfrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR). Dr. Mohamed Seisay, delivering the opening remarks on behalf of AU-IBAR’s Director, Dr. Huyam Salih, highlighted the organization’s commitment to enhancing knowledge exchange and information transfer on sustainable Blue Economy and Marine Spatial Planning in the continent.
AU-IBAR aims to leverage the forum to achieve several objectives:
• Informing Delegates on the Status of Africa Blue Economy Strategy Implementation: AU-IBAR will provide valuable insights into the progress of implementing the African Blue Economy Strategy in the continent, fostering a deeper understanding of the strategy’s impact and potential.
• Sharing Information on Ongoing MSP Initiatives: The organization will showcase ongoing Marine Spatial Planning initiatives in the West, Central, and North regions of Africa, offering a comprehensive view of MSP’s implementation across the continent.
• Continental Sensitization and Awareness Campaigns: AU-IBAR will play a crucial role in raising awareness and understanding of the MSP concept, ensuring that stakeholders are well-informed and engaged in the process.
• Sharing Knowledge Products on MSP: The organization will present knowledge products developed on Marine Spatial Planning, offering valuable resources and insights to support the MSP process in Africa.
• Seeking Institutional Collaboration: AU-IBAR aims to foster institutional collaboration on MSP initiatives in the Eastern and Southern regions of Africa, promoting a unified approach to MSP across the continent.
• Seeking Partnerships on Blue Economy-Related Projects and Programs: The organization will explore opportunities for partnerships on projects and programs related to the Blue Economy, facilitating greater investment and progress in this critical sector.
The 2nd MSP Forum for Africa, demonstrates African governments’ and regional institutions’ commitment to leveraging the potential of Marine Spatial Planning to establish a sustainable Blue Economy. Africa is positioned to realise the full potential of its maritime resources while safeguarding its natural heritage via partnership, information exchange, and capacity building. The future of Africa’s Blue Economy is bright, and the 2nd MSP Forum represents a key step in that direction.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of The African Union – Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR).