On Monday, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu swore in his 45-person cabinet. Days after giving them portfolio assignments, this happened.
The creation of the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy, however, is one feature of the ministerial cabinet that has greatly excited economic specialists and opinion leaders.
The establishment of this ministry is a rare example of the federal government’s urgency to breathe life into and take advantage of chances for economic development at sea, according to experts and players in Nigeria’s marine and aquatic sector of the economy.
They believe that the new ministry will lead the country toward economic progress and prosperity if given the attention it deserves and the resources it needs to do its job well.
The sustainable use of ocean resources for economic development, enhanced livelihoods, and improved ocean health is referred to as the “Blue Economy.” It includes a variety of industries, including aquaculture, tourism, biotechnology, renewable energy, and fishing.
For many years, as Nigeria dozed off, other countries like Egypt reaped enormous benefits from the blue economy.
The Suez Canal in Egypt, which connects Europe and Asia, brought approximately $8 billion in revenue from that industry in 2022.
According to economic commentators, the blue economy sector has enormous potential to boost the economy, create jobs, and give coastal towns a source of income.
They estimate that it is worth more than $1.5 trillion annually, supports over 30 million jobs, and gives more than 3 billion people a crucial source of protein.
In a paper, the African Union also claimed that the Blue Economy might bring the continent over $300 billion a year.
Adegboyega Oyetola, the pioneering Minister, and his colleagues in that ministry were encouraged by the experts to completely comprehend the concept and crucial function of this distinctive and innovative ministry in light of these prospects and opportunities.
They anticipate that the ministry will enhance Africa’s largest economy so it can compete on a global scale in addition to helping Nigeria access the multi-billion dollar global sector.
‘Blue Economy’ is a notion that has acquired popularity in the previous ten years, according to Mr. Jude Nwandu, an economist and managing director of Netolinks Consultancy Lagos.
He based his argument on the fact that nations’ natural resources are running out and that they must diversify their economies in order to raise enough money to meet their citizens’ social demands.
The need to protect the environment through the sustainable exploitation of marine resources for the benefit of future generations, according to Nwandu, is another key factor in the Blue Economy concept’s rise to prominence.
He also clarified that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the foundation of the blue economy concept.
“SDG 14 is one instance, which discusses underwater life. According to that specific SDG 14, population expansion exacerbates pollution, overfishing, coral bleaching, and the loss of coastal ecosystems.
The economist claimed that “two-thirds of marine areas have been harmed by human activity, and a third of sharks, rays, and reef corals are threatened with extinction.”
Olisa Agbakoba, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, also predicted that the government could generate N7 trillion in revenue from the maritime industry while applauding President Tinubu for giving in to the nation’s maritime community’s long-awaited policy advocacy by establishing the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy.
This is a significant omission. Nigeria, a marine nation, must advance policy concerns in order to take advantage of the enormous economic prospects available.
With the right guidance from the government, Agbakoba stated, “this sector will easily contribute at least N7 trillion to the public revenue.”
The director-general of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Bashir Jamoh, also discussed the potential of the new ministry. He claimed that the establishment of this “long overdue ministry” will significantly advance the President’s plans and initiatives for the maritime and aquaculture sectors of the economy.
Jamoh further advised Nigeria to seize the chances presented by the country’s maritime industry.
“There are fresh prospects all around us, and I’m delighted Nigeria will investigate the idea of the blue economy with the establishment of this ministry.
The sustainable use of ocean resources for employment creation, improved quality of life, and economic growth is known as the “blue economy.”
Maritime shipping, fishing and aquaculture, coastal tourism, renewable energy, water desalination, underwater telecommunications, seabed extractive industries and deep-sea mining, marine genetic resources, and biotechnology are all examples of “Blue Economy” operations.
Sincerely, this ministry has been overdue, and more significantly, it will help economic diversification, said Jamoh.
The establishment of the Ministry of Maritime and Blue Economy, according to shipowners affiliated with the Integrity Group of the Nigerian Indigenous Shipowners Association (NISA), is long overdue and will bring about wealth, sustainable growth, and jobs for the nation.
They instilled high expectations in the minister’s ability to accomplish the goal that motivated the founding of the ministry.
“We applaud the government’s foresight in handing this critical duty to a person who can contribute new viewpoints and creative ideas.
“The Integrity Group is prepared to offer help and experience to ensure the success of projects meant to improve the maritime sector. We recognize that there may be obstacles in the future.
“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 released over the weekend.
Mr. Iroche, a researcher at the African Studies Centre, University of Oxford, England, evaluated the potential of the blue economy and set the agenda for the new ministry. He argued that the government’s move to explore the untapped marine and blue economy in Nigeria must be established, with a clear understanding of the concept and the enormous benefits it holds for the nation.
According to him, the development of the blue economy is evidence that governments are realizing how important it is for the nation to diversify its economy and wean itself off of its heavy reliance on crude oil.
Iroche pointed out that Nigeria must look for new forms of income due to the shifting global demand for oil and environmental concerns.
He emphasized that the blue economy offers a potential path for long-term economic growth, generating new employment possibilities and drawing in outside capital.
Nigeria will benefit greatly from completely adopting the blue economy, according to experts. It first presents a chance for economic diversification, lessening the nation’s overdependence on crude oil.
For Nigeria’s economic development, the fisheries sector, for example, has enormous potential. The nation has a long, 850-kilometer coastline and a wealth of fisheries resources.
“However, Nigeria’s fisheries sector continues to be mainly underdeveloped due to poor regulatory frameworks, obsolete fishing techniques, and limited infrastructure.
Nigeria may greatly expand its fish production, both for local use and export, by making investments in contemporary fishing equipment, upgrading infrastructure, and putting in place efficient laws. This will improve food security, lessen poverty in coastal towns, and benefit the economy, he said.
The maritime transportation sector has blue economy potential for Nigeria.
According to a report from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the sea is used to transport 80% of all goods worldwide.
The UNCTAD calculates that $3.4 trillion worth of trade travels on the water every day. For countries that have positioned themselves to benefit from a blue economy, this is a significant source of income.
Iroche also thinks that the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy needs to act quickly to join the league of countries reaping the benefits.
Nigeria might develop into a significant hub for marine trade and logistics in West Africa thanks to its advantageous location in the Gulf of Guinea, he claimed.
“Nigeria can draw more shipping companies, boost trade volumes, and create significant money by upgrading and modernizing its ports, enhancing connectivity, and improving marine security. This would boost the nation’s status as a regional economic powerhouse in addition to helping the nation’s economy.
Another component of the blue economy that Nigeria may utilize is renewable energy. The country’s abundant water resources offer the perfect setting for the growth of hydroelectric power and other renewable energy sources.
It would be necessary for the ministry to coordinate with the Ministry of Power. Nigeria can lessen its dependency on fossil fuels, slow global warming, and give its people access to clean, inexpensive energy by investing in renewable energy infrastructure.
“This will not only promote sustainable growth but also open up job possibilities and draw capital to the renewable energy industry.
“The promise of Nigeria’s blue economy includes travel. In order to develop tourism and realize its full potential, it is crucial that the ministry works in tandem with the Ministry of Tourism.
“The nation is a desirable travel destination for both domestic and foreign tourists because of its stunning beaches, unique marine habitats, and rich cultural legacy.
“Nigeria can grow its tourist business, add jobs, and make money by supporting sustainable tourism practices, investing in coastal tourism infrastructure, and protecting marine biodiversity.
“This would not only promote cultural exchange and environmental conservation, but it would also contribute to economic growth,” he continued.
Iroche said, however, that in order to fully realize this potential in the blue economy sector, the government must make investments in cutting-edge technology, upgrade infrastructure, put in place efficient regulations, and encourage environmentally friendly behaviors.
“By doing so, Nigeria can pave the way for sustainable economic growth, job creation, and a brighter future for its citizens,” he declared.
He asked the administration to make concerted efforts to strengthen the new ministry.
The blue economy has many potentials, but in order to realize them, it is necessary to develop clear strategies, as well as a persistent commitment and political will to put such strategies into action.