IGAD region is composed of eight (8) Member States, five (5) of them coastal, namely Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia and Sudan; and three (3) land-locked, including Ethiopia, South Sudan and Uganda. The region has diverse socio-ecological landscapes that are characterized as water-stressed, with harsh natural environments making it reliant on rain-fed agro-pastoralism for its economic development, further exacerbated by demographic pressure and climate risks. Over the past decades, the IGAD region has experienced an impressive average annual economic growth rate of 5 %, albeit insufficient to lift a significant proportion of its population of nearly two hundred and fifty million people (52% female) out of extreme poverty, hunger and insecurity. Addressing these challenges in the region calls for harnessing opportunities availed by different sectors of the economy that have hither-to no received adequate policy or programmatic attention.
The IGAD region stretches over a land area of 5.2 million km2 which consists of 65% water-stressed and 35 % marginal lands. The combined inland water area is about 222,358 km2 but is unevenly distributed across the region. The coastal states in the region have an aggregated Exclusive Economic Zone of 1.1 million Km2, including 55,875 km2 of in-shore waters and 6,960 km of coastline. This huge blue economic potential of the region provides an opportunity to improve the economic growth of the region to levels that can sustainably impact on poverty reduction and socio-economic transformation. Thus far, efforts have concentrated on addressing conflicts related to access to resources, land degradation, environmental deterioration and biodiversity loss, which pose some of the main challenges to achieve sustainable development, peace and security in the region. IGAD Member States, therefore, need a big-push to graduate from least developed and fragile States to developing and resilient economies. In this regard, leveraging the Blue Economy through inter-alia, sustainable management and responsible development of the freshwater and marine resources is key to ensuring a triple-win for the present and future generations of the region.
IGAD is organizing its first regional Blue Economy (BE) Conference to raise awareness on the prospects of ocean/inland waters-related industries and the Blue Growth principles for promoting and sustaining accelerated economic growth, shared prosperity, climate resilience and peace in the Horn of Africa. Moreover, at the technical segment of the Conference, Member States will present the status of the development of BE in their respective countries. The sustainable blue economic development initiative is aligned with and reinforces IGAD’s overarching sustainable development agenda for the region. This initiative also complements the vision and aspirations contained in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly Sustainable Development Goal 14 on life below water; and further the African Union Continental Agenda 2063, the Africa Integrated Maritime Strategy 2050 as well as it will be aligned with AUC Blue Economy Strategy 2019