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Ocean-based goods, an untapped potential of Africa

A new report prepared by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) with the contribution of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) analyses the opportunities offered by the ocean economy as a driver of international economic growth. According to the report, the value of the ocean economy, globally, ranges between $3 trillion to $6 trillion per year, sustaining at least 150 million direct jobs across a wide range of sectors, including (but not limited to) fishing, aquaculture, shipping, tourism, offshore wind energy, oil and gas, mining and marine biotechnology.

More specifically, the Trade and Environment Review 2023 shows that the global value in 2020 of exports of ocean-based goods and services, was $1.3 trillion, representing about 6 per cent of global trade ($23 trillion). The leading exporters of such goods are Europe and Russia, Asia and the Americas, where approximately three quarters of such exports are made by high-technology ocean industries.

Exports of ocean-based goods by region (2020)

As it can be noted in the above graphic, unfortunately, the share of Africa in global exports of ocean-based goods, despite its immense marine and aquatic resources, is unsignificant. The report also reveals a problem of insufficient data reporting on values of ocean goods exported by African countries, which highlights the need to develop more accurate statistics for this sector.

Among African countries, Morocco is the economy that has developed the strongest ocean-based services sector, but it still needs investments to grow its ocean goods export capacity. Significant is also the share of fish trade flows of some West African countries, where this trade represents between 5 and 12 per cent of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The conclusion that emerges from the report is that the potential in the ocean economy of Africa is high, but still needs to be unlocked by promoting value addition in the fish and seafood industry and by strengthening the productivity of this sector, among others, through increased incentives for innovation. This would contribute, UNCTAD notes, to increase exports of ocean-based manufactures and to create higher-wage jobs in Africa.

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