February 24, 2024

US$1.5-trillion blue economy potential untapped in Africa

3 min read

The blue economy – sustainable economic activity around the world’s oceans – is a US$1.5-trillion sector supporting around 31 million jobs. However, Africa is not yet harnessing all the opportunities the blue economy offers.

This is according to the organisers of the Ocean Innovation Africa summit, an international event set to bring together blue economy policymakers, stakeholders and entrepreneurs in Cape Town in February.

Alexis Grosskopf, founder of Africa’s first ocean-impact startup accelerator OceanHub and co-founder of Ocean Innovation Africa, says African investors and entrepreneurs are not moving fast enough to capitalise on the opportunities open to them in the blue economy. “The blue economy has traditionally encompassed areas such as fishing, aquaculture, tourism and maritime activities, but there is scope for so much more innovation in the sector.”

“The African ocean economy is predicted to generate US$405 billion by 2030. At the same time, a decline in ocean health could cost the global economy US$428 billion a year by 2050. We need more entrepreneurs and investors moving into the blue economy to achieve sustainable growth at a pace and scale that matches – or exceeds – current ocean and humanitarian crises.

“The blue economy can offer multiple wins for the continent – innovative blue economy businesses can boost jobs, empower communities and support progress toward sustainable development goals.”

The Ocean Innovation Africa summit, now entering its fifth edition, is working to drive Africa’s blue economy progress, bringing together investors, entrepreneurs, decision-makers and researchers to forge partnerships and exchange ideas.

Grosskopf says: “Ocean Innovation Africa is proving so successful at fostering pan-African and international blue economy partnerships that we have had to limit attendance at the 2024 edition to 500 delegates to allow for maximum engagement and interaction opportunities between delegates. In 2023, 578 delegates, representing 408 organisations, from 59 countries around the world registered for the event, with almost 90% of them coming from 35 African countries.”

The summit attracts delegates from the innovation ecosystem, impact investors and funders, private equity fund, public sector and policymakers, research and education, waste management and the circular economy, desalination and freshwater management, renewable energy, ocean data and exploration, fisheries, maritime transport, shipping and ports, boat building, tourism and ocean sports sectors.

Rex Bowden, trade and events specialist and co-founder of Ocean Innovation Africa, says the summit sessions and workshops provide African perspectives on blue economy challenges and opportunities, and catalyse partnerships and investment for solution development.

“The summit offers a unique platform for sector stakeholders to discuss challenges and be inspired by innovators in this space,” he says. “Attendees will also gain valuable insights from keynote speakers from leading conservation, business development and investment organisations.”

Highlights of the Ocean Innovation Africa summit 2024 will include daily keynotes, panel discussions and fireside sessions featuring over 50 international and local speakers, a B2B programme and exhibition. Breakout workshops will focus on key areas including aquaculture, the cruise industry, shipping and ports, carbon trading, and ecosystem restoration and management. Investors and decision-makers will have an opportunity to discover and engage with over 70 ocean startups, and engagement opportunities extend into the evenings, with networking cocktails and a VIP dinner on the agenda.

The Ocean Innovation Africa pitch competition running alongside the summit showcases exciting local innovations, such as new seaweed products, educational VR content and value streams from plastic waste. This competition will see six innovative startups pitching their businesses to a panel of judges each day, with the winner to be decided based on impact, growth and scalability.

The Ocean Innovation Africa summit, presented by founding partners OceanHub Africa and Catalyze, will be held in Cape Town from 20 to 22 February 2024.

Event sponsorship opportunities are still available for organisations seeking to connect with maritime and ocean policymakers, researchers, investors and entrepreneurs from across the continent. To learn more about sponsorship opportunities, email Alexandra Pattison: alexandra@ocean-innovation.africa.

Image credit: rorozoa/Freepik

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