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Innovating a Bluer Economy for Africa

Africa’s Blue Economy

The Ocean Innovation Africa (OIA) summit gathered key actors in the African Blue Economy in Cape Town this February for 3 days of knowledge sharing, inspiration, and collaboration on shared goals.

Much like the Green Economy, the Blue Economy is a sustainable and equitable economic model working with nature and communities, but in this case, at sea rather than on land. The ocean economy presents a massive opportunity for socio-economic development in Africa, but only if it takes place in a drastically less exploitative manner than has been the case up until now.

Where the Ocean Innovation Africa summit fits in

This kind of transition requires innovation in ocean-impact fields and integration between them, but moreover, if it is to happen within the time frame needed to contribute to Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) targets, it needs to be accelerated. The Ocean Innovation Africa summit aims to inspire more ocean-conscious entrepreneurs, entice more private capital investment in the African blue economy, and catalyse collaboration on shared goals across ocean-impact fields.

This year saw the event return to a fully in-person gathering at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, as the official summit of The Ocean Race stopover in the city. What makes the event unique on the continent is the range of stakeholder groups that take part. The summit brings together the entire blue economy ecosystem, from political and industry leaders, investors, and NGOs, to entrepreneurs, community representatives and downstream beneficiaries.

The summit witnessed participation from 500 key stakeholders from 59 countries. The organisers and partners of the summit ensured financial support was provided to allow access to groups that may have been unable to attend otherwise. Notably, almost half of the audience consisted of delegates from 35 African countries.  With deadlines for SDG targets fast approaching, it is not enough to discuss the challenges and opportunities posed by blue economy development. Ocean Innovation Africa is an outcomes-based summit. Mornings are dedicated to inspiration,both by showcasing opportunity for ocean-impact entrepreneurs, and by sharing perspectives from action on the ground. Key topics are discussed between expert panels, providing insight for the sector-specific workshops held in the afternoons. These workshops were facilitated by Ernst and Young South Africa, and chaired by sector experts from within the OIA partner network, and aimed at providing a platform for key stakeholders in each field to collaborate on shared goals.

Despite discussion groups of up to 20 at times, work shoppers and attendees alike shared diverse perspectives, questions, and experiences, not only informing future work but, in numerous cases resulting in direct actions based on cooperation between participants.

The event also saw partnership agreements supporting to the Africa Ocean innovation ecosystem forged between international support organisations, regional authorities, and Africa’s first ocean-impact accelerator, OceanHub Africa. Over R200 000 in prizes were awarded to African ocean-impact startups that took part in pitch competitions at the summit, with finalists receiving additional mentorship and support to scale their enterprises, and with them, their impact, through the OceanHub Africa network.

Make_IT in Africa, a division of the German Development Fund GIZ, launched a Blue Economy Masterclass for ecosystem support organisations and business angels through the summit, and the IUCN, WEF-UpLink, and OceanHub Africa launched the first ”Great Blue Wall” ecopreneur challenge for seascape restoration and conservation in the Western Indian Ocean region.

Key speakers included H.E. Nancy Karigithu, Kenya’s Ambassador for Blue Economy and Maritime Affairs, and candidate in the next elections for Secretary General of the International Maritime Organisation, H.E Chileshe Kapwepwe, Secretary General of COMESA, Richard Brisius, Chairman of The Ocean Race, and Alderman James Vos, Mayoral Committee member for Economic Growth at City of Cape Town.

Get in on the action

The Ocean Innovation Africa community has gathered in strength and numbers over the last four years as the African blue economy movement gathers momentum. Partners like those mentioned above, along with Schmidt Marine Technology Partners, Dassault Systemes, Builders Vision, and WESGRO, facilitate such growth and next year’s event promises to be the most exciting yet.

Save the week of the 19th of February 2024 for Africa’s foremost blue economy event. Subscribe to the mailing list at to stay up to date on build-up events and discussions and to get involved in the next edition of the summit.