A Multi-Faceted National Blue Economy Strategy with a Common Goal

June 30, 2022
Elena Touriño Lorenzo/UNDP

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need to resume a more sustainable, resilient, and inclusive economic recovery, with special attention being paid to the most vulnerable. This also applies to Guinea-Bissau and establishing a green pathway that marks this recovery is undoubtedly a firm commitment by UNDP to achieve inclusive growth in the medium and long term based on the sustainable development of the country. This green path to growth is part of a broader framework of sustainable environmental, economic, and social development in which the potential of the blue economy is an essential pillar. UNDP, in partnership with the government and other relevant actors, is making important efforts to make the most of the strengths and opportunities that the sector presents in Guinea-Bissau.

The development of the National Blue Economy Strategy and corresponding Investment Plan is a joint action between UNDP and the government. It aims to continue advancing along the path of economic diversification and taking advantage of the opportunities that the blue economy and the country's status as a SIDS offer for the green, inclusive, and transformative growth of Guinea-Bissau. “The government's objectives are articulated around the creation of conditions that will enable better living conditions for the population”, Director General of Economy Mussa Sambi explains, “which will necessarily involve the creation of employment and income that will help combat poverty in its various dimensions. This can be done by promoting economic growth, but it must be sustainable. And the sustainability of growth and economic development also necessarily implies the promotion of the blue economy in our country”. 

Elena Touriño Lorenzo/UNDP

Sambi participated in the last workshop and the last Advisory Group meeting held so far to prepare the National Blue Economy Strategy and provide technical advice and had the opportunity to discuss the foundations that should underpin the Strategy with different actors and stakeholders. The World Bank, various civil society organisations, private sector representatives and government institutions such as the Institute for Biodiversity and Protected Areas(Instituto da Biodiversidade e das Áreas Protegidas - IBAP) or the Ministry of Tourism actively contributed to a debate in which the identification of opportunities for private investment and coordination among donors to cover complementary areas were two of the key issues. The creation of value chains that foster the empowerment of the private sector and the commitment to fisheries, agriculture, and tourism as catalysts of the strategy were also on the agenda. “Capacity building and infrastructure are the biggest difficulties in the tourism sector in Guinea-Bissau”, says the Director of Ecotourism at the Ministry of Tourism, Fenda Coelho da Piedade. The development of ecotourism is among the government's priorities, in line with the need to diversify the economy. According to Sambi, “this would translate into greater resilience to market changes, not only nationally but also internationally. This resilience can be understood as the ability to promote the economy through interventions that add value in a much more rational way”.

The implementation of the strategy will consider sectors and cross-cutting issues such as maritime transport, governance, and financing, and will guide the interventions of all stakeholders in the blue economy, including the private sector. Carolino Nosolini dos Reis is the General Secretary of the National Association of Industrial Fishing Shipowners (Associação Nacional dos Armadores e Industriais de Pesca - ANAPI) *. Created in 2016, the association aims to defend the interests of the industrial sector of fisheries, and it counts 15 associates. “Our main objective is to promote the creation of a national fishing fleet, because we are interested in our fishing activity contributing to our ship owners and to the national economy”, he explains. “Most of the fish caught in the seas of Guinea-Bissau goes abroad, so it is paradoxical that even though we are a country of the sea sometimes we do not have enough fish on the market”. The main concern expressed by Nosolini is how the promotion of a sustainable blue economy will be articulated considering the existence of fisheries exploitation agreements where the interest of one of the parties is primarily to catch as many resources from the sea as possible. “What a well-established and regulated blue economy could bring us is sustainability. We want to maintain the biomass of our resources, the biological diversity, the preservation of species, and the ecological protection of our exclusive maritime and coastal zone as much as possible”. 

Elena Touriño Lorenzo/UNDP

In general terms, the aim is to ensure that the industrial activity linked to the blue economy in Guinea-Bissau is developed within the limits of the recommendations proposed in the Strategy and of the national regulatory legislation itself, in order to achieve a balance between profitability, competitiveness, and the need for a sustainable development. “Vulnerable countries with marine resources such as Guinea-Bissau will always find it very difficult to control overfishing, illegal and unregulated fishing more effectively”, says Nosolini, “but it also depends on the political will to defend the interests of the country”. He believes that the negotiation of the Fisheries Cooperation Agreementwith the EU is a sensitive issue for ANAPI, as he considers that it imposes great restrictions on fishing activities and even on small-scale or local fishing. “European vessels try to comply as far as possible, but it is also true that the fish is there and if it can be fished, it will be fished. How to marry the existence of this agreement, which is limiting for us, with the promotion of the blue economy, is the big challenge”. 

The main challenge of defining the National Blue Economy Strategy is, in fact, to listen to all voices. To be able to incorporate all points of view and to marry the different interests expressed to make the Strategy a truly useful tool capable of regulating and catalysing a key sector that is called to drive economic diversification and green growth in Guinea-Bissau.


* In memory of Carolino Nosolini dos Reis, who unfortunately passed away on the 11th of June 2022. UNDP Guinea-Bissau would like to express its deepest condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues, and would like to thank his valuable and unconditional cooperation in both the definition of the strategy and the preparation of this article.