Shifting gear to the Blue Economy Part 3
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) is currently working to shift attention from crude oil as the main source of revenue for the country to what is known as the Blue Economy. This follows the relative success of the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure, otherwise known as the Deep Blue Project, which has brought about a drastic reduction in cases of piracy and other forms of criminality in the Nigerian maritime environment in the last several months.
To a reasonable extent, the country’s waters are more secure and safe for maritime activities to thrive now, more than it was up to early this year. This has been attested to by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and other international organizations in the maritime space.
The blue economy is all about harnessing the huge potential that abound in Nigeria’s waters for optimal socio-economic benefits of the country and its people. This is beyond participation in world maritime trade using the Gulf of Guinea where the country is a major player. The aim is to ensure the country does not continue to depend solely on oil as the mainstay of the national economy, especially with the uncertainties that now characterize activities in the international oil market, which have seen a dwindling of the country’s revenue in recent times. This is in line with the current diversification drive of the Buhari administration, which has seen many government agencies and even private sector operators working assiduously to broaden the productive base of the national economy.
The blue economy initiative is driven by the fact that Nigeria’s waters – brown and blue – harbour more than crude oil and gas. It is an initiative that will also involve collaboration between NIMASA and the eight littoral states of Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Bayelsa, Edo, Ondo, Delta, Rivers and Lagos, under the umbrella of Littoral States Cooperation of Nigeria (LISCON).
In order to achieve the required shift from crude to blue economy, five strategic committees with crucial roles to play have been set to facilitate the exercise. One of the committees is the Blue Economy Capacity Working Group (CWG). As the name implies, the CWG has the responsibility to develop a blueprint for harnessing the resources that lie under, within, on top and around the country’s waters, which include minerals other than oil, fish and aquatic animals that may not be known to exist in our waters.
The activities of the CWG will span the whole gamut of human interplay and manpower development, including infrastructure design, development and deployment, equipment, ships, Cabotage, tonnage growth, shipping development, freight revenues, etc. The committee will also work at profiling and projecting the impacts of the entire value chain of the shipping industry on other sectors such as manufacturing, painting, recycling, insurance, financing, technology, etc.
The CWG will not only comprise, but will in fact be dominated by maritime technocrats and industry players with vast knowledge and experience in the sector, both locally and internationally. The committee will have the responsibility to translate the Blue Economy agenda into concrete industrial value creation that would yield the expected results in terms of harnessing resources in the maritime domain in a sustainable manner.
There is also the Blue Economy Finance and Investment Working Group (FIWG), which will focus exclusively on matters relating to financing and investing in the development of the country’s blue economy. This committee will comprise financial, economic and investment experts with deep knowledge of the components of blue economy, how it works and investment opportunities that lie therein, drawing inspiration from other parts of the world where it has been fully developed.
The FIWG will have, among others, responsibility to attract experts and practitioners in the areas of finance and economy for the purpose of securing their buy-in and full participation in the blue economy project, in order to harness their contributions for its development.
In achieving this objective, the committee will identify and explore the viabilities of a wide spectrum of sustainable financing instruments ranging from funded to counterpart funding, joint venture arrangements, public-private partnerships, structured investment vehicles, bonds, equity and debt financing, as well as other fiscal and monetary vehicles for the purpose of achieving the growth of the blue economy.
As an initiative of NIMASA, the agency is not unmindful of the challenges that are going to come up in the course of translating what is at the moment an idea into a workable programme that would contribute significantly to the country’s economic diversification efforts. The agency will, however, rely on the expertise and experience of those to be brought on board to achieve this laudable objective. One thing is certain: when we dive deep into the blue economy, Nigeria’s economy will experience a boom that has never been seen before; the economy will witness fast-paced and sustainable growth and development.
Dr. Jamoh, Director-General and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, writes exclusively for The Guardian