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Tapping Opportunities in Nigeria’s $296B Marine and Blue Economy: Five Key Strategies

Nigeria’s marine and blue economy holds the potential to transform the nation’s economic landscape, offering diverse avenues for growth beyond traditional sectors. With an estimated value of $296 billion in untapped potential, this sector offers a wealth of opportunities that, if effectively harnessed, can lead to job creation, enhanced food security, sustainable tourism, infrastructure development, and the promotion of green energy solutions.

Abdul-Kadir Ahmed, the CEO of NLNG Shipping and Marine Service Limited, emphasizes that unlocking the sustainable potential of the marine and blue economy is pivotal not only for revenue generation but also for addressing Nigeria’s burgeoning population and employment needs. While private enterprise can play a pivotal role in driving this transformation, a key prerequisite is the establishment of a supportive regulatory framework that ensures safety and adherence to international standards.

In this context, there are five crucial avenues through which Nigeria can tap into the vast opportunities presented by its marine and blue economy:

Port Development

The strategic development of new deep seaports emerges as a cornerstone of leveraging the marine and blue economy for sustained growth. Initiatives such as the Badagry Deep Seaport, Ondo Deep Seaport, Ibom Deep Seaport, Bonny Deep Seaport, and Benin River Port hold immense promise. For instance, the Badagry Port, with its investment of $2.59 billion, not only has the potential to create a quarter of a million jobs but also attract substantial foreign direct investment, yielding approximately $53.6 billion in revenue over a 45-year period.

Enforcing the Cabotage Act

Central to nurturing indigenous participation in the maritime and blue economy is the effective implementation of the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act of 2003. This act grants Nigerian entities the exclusive rights to locally generated seaborne trade, aiming to reverse the dominance of foreign-owned vessels. The challenge lies in judiciously applying waivers while prioritizing Nigerian shipowners, ensuring the retention of capital within the country and reducing job losses.

Regulating Ocean Fishing

The sustainability of marine resources is imperative, particularly in the face of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing activities. Foreign fishermen have contributed to significant revenue losses—estimated at over $70 million annually—alongside resulting job cuts. Addressing this demands implementing the Maritime Zone Bill and revising maritime laws to establish stringent regulations that curtail illegal fishing practices.

Disbursing the Cabotage Fund

The Cabotage Act of two decades ago led to the creation of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund, intended to empower Nigerian shipowners by providing financial support and ship loans. Yet, the fund, amounting to over $350 million and N16 billion, remains largely undistributed. Swift action in disbursing this fund is essential for driving growth and job creation within Nigeria’s shipping sector.

Fostering Ship Repair Business

The establishment of a robust ship repair sub-industry is crucial for curtailing capital flight and fostering job creation. Currently, Nigeria lacks comprehensive dry-docking facilities, forcing shipowners to seek repair services abroad. Initiatives to develop repair capabilities within the country would not only stem substantial capital losses but also create employment opportunities and contribute to economic growth.

In essence, Nigeria’s marine and blue economy boasts the potential to become a cornerstone of its economic resurgence. As Bashir Jamoh, Director General of NIMASA, asserts, this sector has the capacity to generate trillions in revenue annually and create millions of jobs. With proactive policies, strategic investments, and a commitment to sustainable practices, Nigeria can usher in an era of economic prosperity driven by its marine and blue economy.

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