With 189 member countries, staff from more than 170 countries, and offices in over 130 locations, the World Bank Group is a unique global partnership: five institutions working for sustainable solutions that reduce poverty and build shared prosperity in developing countries.
The World Bank Group works in every major area of development. We provide a wide array of financial products and technical assistance, and we help countries share and apply innovative knowledge and solutions to the challenges they face.
We face big challenges to help the world’s poorest people and ensure that everyone sees benefits from economic growth. Data and research help us understand these challenges and set priorities, share knowledge of what works, and measure progress.
Artisanal fishing port of Koukoude, prefecture of Boffa, Guinea. Photo credit: Vincent Tremeau/World Bank.
The African Union estimates that the Blue Economy currently generates nearly US$300 billion for the continent, creating 49 million jobs in the process. These and other crucial benefits—most notably food security, livelihoods, and biodiversity—are entirely dependent on the ocean’s health. By safeguarding and enhancing marine and coastal health, countries will be in a better position to take full advantage of future Blue Economy opportunities, which range from sustainable blue energy to aquaculture to blue carbon.
The World Bank is pioneering Blue Economy for Resilient Africa Program, announced at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s annual Conference of the Parties (COP27). The Program will work with Africa’s coastal countries to leverage the opportunities—and manage the risks—inherent in growing their budding Blue Economies.
The Blue Economy is at the core of the economic development and competitiveness of Africa’s coastal countries. However, unsustainable infrastructure development, inadequate management of natural habitats and resources, and pollution are threatening their productivity. Climate change-related events such as sea-level rise, land subsidence, storm surge, and coastal flooding are exacerbating this vulnerability. The challenge today is: How can coastal countries manage their coastal and marine landscapes to spur economic growth and reduce poverty while adapting to the effects of climate change? Find out more in:
Overview: Blue Economy for Resilient Africa Program (PDF)
Africa’s coastal countries face the same challenges encountered by those on other continents: marine pollution in various forms; illegal and unsustainable fishing; coastal erosion; and loss of biodiversity due to environmental degradation and other factors. These damages are exacerbated and amplified by climate change, which is already causing fish migration patterns to alter and sea levels in Africa to rise slightly faster than the global average, among other impacts.
The World Bank already supports climate action across the African continent. By intensifying its focus on the continent’s Blue Economy, it seeks to further increase resilience to climate change while improving food security and livelihoods. Find out more in Climate Change and the Blue Economy in Africa (PDF).
Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing poses a major risk to food security, the sustainability of Africa’s fish stocks, as well as coastal communities’ livelihoods and nutritional wellbeing. Changes in marine temperatures, natural structures, and sea chemistry due to climate change are further driving down fish stocks in some parts of the continent’s vast coastline, with models indicating that the maximum catch potential will decrease by 30 percent by 2050 in many tropical countries along the continent’s west coast.
The World Bank currently supports several initiatives along Africa’s coastline that seek to, among other objectives, integrate climate resilience into sub-national and regional fishery planning and governance; use satellite-based monitoring systems to improve understanding of the extent of the decline in fisheries. Find out more in Sustainable Fisheries (PDF).
Africa’s diverse and rich biodiversity—which provides critical ecosystem services that drive the continent’s economy and serves as an important buffer to the effects of climate change—are increasingly threatened by ocean and coastal degradation, overfishing, erosion, and climate change itself. To mitigate these threats and improve the resilience of marine habitats, Africa’s governments need to partner with private and public funders to strengthen scientific understanding of the state of Africa’s coastal and marine ecosystems while implementing collaborative marine resource governance programs that will safeguard and restore areas of strategic importance for biodiversity and livelihoods. Find out more in our brief on Coastal and Marine Biodiversity and Ecosystems (PDF).
Across Africa, rising populations and increased socioeconomic activity in coastal areas are resulting in increased marine pollution. Climate change is multiplying this risk, with extreme weather events potentially causing oil spills or the flooding of wastewater treatment works. Rather than expand their Blue Economies, countries are instead needing to combat pollution in coastal and marine waters to mitigate the threats posed to biodiversity, ecosystem resilience, food security, and human health. Focusing on plastic pollution, wastewater, and oil spills, the World Bank provides several African countries and regional entities with technical and financial assistance to better understand the extent of pollution on their coastlines and develop policies and action plans to address the challenge. Find out more in Marine Pollution (PDF).
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The Blue Economy will play a major role in Africa’s climate adaptation. The growth of Africa’s Blue Economy requires focused and decisive action on four cross-cutting areas: institutional development and governance; spatial planning; data management and knowledge creation and dissemination; and financing. The long-term sustainable development benefits of a resilient Blue Economy will be substantial, not least of which for the people whose jobs and livelihoods depend on healthy ocean ecosystems.
Across Africa, as elsewhere in the world, governments face the complicated challenge of needing to make policy decisions about highly contested marine and coastal resources in the absence of a well-established body of knowledge. Marine spatial planning is a tool for managing coastal and marine ecosystems that defuses this challenge while meeting climate change resilience goals. By including a broad range of stakeholders in participatory mapping and decision-making processes, marine spatial planning reduces investment risk and improves investor confidence. This is important because Africa’s Blue Economy will require substantial private sector investment.
Various African countries have, with the World Bank’s support, used marine spatial planning to develop management frameworks for their blue resources, with some going on to declare new marine protected areas to serve as breeding grounds to replenish declining fisheries, among other ecological benefits. Find out more in Marine Spatial Planning (PDF).
Decision-makers from all sectors need to be able to access to credible, current data on the state of Africa’s oceans and coasts if they are to put in place programs, policies, and institutions that will create and support a thriving Blue Economy. Historical lack of investment into data collection, research and analysis, and technology has resulted in a dearth of usable, accessible data, coupled with poor institutional capacity. With sufficient investment into the building of systems and capacity, the continent could “leapfrog” into a new milieu in which the latest technologies are used to gather, process, and disseminate data and knowledge about Africa’s marine and coastal systems, so supporting decision-making that will strengthen the continent’s Blue Economy.
This leap is already happening. With the World Bank’s support, Guinea has produced an online visualization tool that maps coastal land cover changes over time, Tanzania has used drone footage to assess the extent of its coastal plastic pollution problem, and a regional coastal observatory for West Africa has been developed, to name just a few examples. Find out more in Knowledge, Data, and Information (PDF).
Coastal African countries will need access to a range of financing options if they are to realize the immense potential of their blue economies. Depending on their local context, they may need, grant financing, debt relief linked to environmental outcomes, or equity financing—as just three possible examples. The private sector is an important part of the solution. Optimizing the timing and focus of public and development finance and partnerships to ensure a catalytic effect offers new opportunities.
The World Bank has a portfolio of more than US$7 billion of ongoing investments in oceanic and ocean-related sectors worldwide. Its holistic approach to helping countries mobilize capital includes providing technical advisory to help with the development of integrated “ridge to reef” projects, which will better be able to address the multiple crises that Africa’s oceans face—chief among them climate change—while developing a robust Blue Economy. Capital financing takes various forms, with recent innovations focusing on blue bonds, carbon credits, parametric insurance, and debt-for-climate swaps. Find out more in Financing Options and Instruments (PDF).
Activities to develop sustainable and resilient ocean economies can be hamstrung by fragmented policies, unrealistic budgets, and limited cooperation across blue sectors. To address these challenges, the World Bank works with various African countries and regions to foster coordinated, capacitated, and realistic approaches to managing the Africa’s coastline and oceans. Success combines development opportunities with nature-based solutions to arrive at well-capacitated institutions with collaborative governance structures that draw on the best available science to balance conflicting goals and use incentives to trigger transformation. Find out more in Developing and Incentivizing Institutions (PDF).
Africa’s working-age population is expected to grow to 450 million people by 2035. The continent’s Blue Economy has potential to create jobs and secure livelihoods for this generation of Africans in a way that empowers them to contribute to decision-making and the sustainable governance of marine and coastal resources. To achieve this goal, critical governance and policy reforms are needed to better align economic interests with long-term sustainability while promoting conditions that encourage business growth in a sustainable seafood sector. Public-sector capacity will also need to be built. Measuring the success of reforms on jobs and livelihoods can be challenging, but when the restoration of mangroves, seagrass beds, and dune vegetation, for example, combine with successful climate-smart job and livelihood support in Africa, the cutting edge of Blue Economy thinking reveals itself. Find out more in Jobs and Livelihoods in the Blue Economy (PDF).
Click on the cover image to download each brief (in PDF).
Africa’s Blue Economy shows great potential for tackling the enormity of climate change while improving livelihoods for coastal communities. However, as noted earlier, achieving this potential requires improvement in the scientific understanding of marine and coastal conditions in the context of climate change, paired with innovations in technology, business, finance, and—importantly—the institutional structures that will develop and implement initiatives.
Innovation is at the core of the World Bank Group’s contributions to Africa’s Blue Economy.
From developing new financing models to support the rapid development and deployment of novel scientific knowledge and innovative technologies, to catalytic support for new institutional platforms and business models, we are working hand in hand with African partners to establish and scale up programs for a sustainable and resilient Blue Economy in the continent. Find out more in:
New Frontiers of Innovation (PDF)