A new type of thinking is needed to deal with the wicked problems of underdevelopment in the Horn of Africa. Business-as-usual, silo and top-down approaches are bound to fail. Advocated by the World Economic Forum in 2008, Blue Growth is a normative approach that ensures fairness in income and wealth distribution. It invigorates local communities by promoting entrepreneurship, development opportunities and social innovations, particularly in the backward areas. This approach fits well the Blue or Green Economy to thrive sustainable development at the grass-root level in the Least Developed Countries. It is also a safeguard against the indiscriminate globalisation that imposes one-size-fits-all rules to penalise those economies at the bottom of the ladder. The post 2nd World War recipe of the Bretton Wood Institution was miscalculated because it did help to ensure Peace – Development and Prosperity across the world. The global economy has made tremendous progress in the past decades but has created an ocean of poverty with a few islets of plenty. Some of the socio-economic inequalities that cannot be addressed solely through development actions are:
- Gender Inequality: About 50% of the world population is kept away from the economic mainstreams owing to sociocultural taboos. The girls and women are an integral part of human capital. In the time crises, they are the most vulnerable. Business-as-usual will not bring about the required transformation.
- Income Inequality: About 1% of the World Population controls 80% of the global wealth. Trillions of dollars are hoarded in offshore accounts, a small fraction of which in the form of universal taxation can solve the problem of poverty, food insecurity, health, sanitation and education in the poor countries. Corporate Social Responsibility and Philanthropies are good but not enough.
- Climate Change Externalities: Developing Countries, particularly the Small Island Developing States are hit harder by the impacts of Climate Change for which they have contributed the least. Climate compensation debate has been diluted in the COP 21 Paris Agreement. It is most likely that the + 2oC target will not be attained by 2030 while +1.5oC will be a serious threat to the developing Small Island and low-lying coastal states.
- Win-lose Economic Model: The expected trickle-down effects of liberal capitalism or free-market economy to ensure an equitable income distribution is a myth. It is the main cause of widening inequalities in the advanced and developing countries alike. The paradox of Poverty in the amidst Plenty. Economic powers in the hands of multinational “ too-big-to-fail ” corporations tend to influence political powers. A shared value or equitable sharing of value-added/wealth and income must be the guiding principle of national and regional political economy.
- Resource access: The international waters which constitute half of the surface of the planet is a common heritage of mankind. It is still open access and exploited intensely by only a few developed countries. After the land grab, an ocean grab is to be avoided.
- Linear Business Approach: The one problem – One solution at a time is a myopic view of development or problem-solving that creates a chain of externalities to society. It must be replaced systematically by systemic and integrative thinking.
- Local Agenda: Global Strategy – Local Actions. National governments are busy signing international agreements while overlooking the local socio-ecological realities/needs in their countries. Rising conflicts in rich and poor countries alike are a cry of local isolation and despair. This state of affairs is responsible for the disconnects between the local communities and the States giving rise to populism.
So, the Blue Economy is not a magic recipe for achieving the Global Agenda 2030. The concept is more ocean-centric and should neither be underestimated nor compete unjustly with the underutilised development potentials of land-based, including the freshwater resources and habitats of the IGAD region. From the developing coastal states perspectives, the scope of the ocean economy can be differentiated into existing or traditional industries and the emerging or high-tech driven ones. It can also be strategized through three overlapping development phases namely:
- Known-Known: Greening the existing marine-based industries in the territorial waters (generally between 12 and 25 nautical miles for coast within a depth of about 50 – 60 meters) for which innovative technologies, business models and financing are available. These industries are mostly located in the coastal and inshore marine space.
- Known-Unknown: The living and mineral resources found beyond the territorial waters inside the national EEZ that have been explored but not exploited by developing states mainly because of the availability of cheaper alternative land-based resources as well as poor business enabling the environment.
- Unknown – Unknown: Nearly 50 % of global oceans constitute the Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ) and is practically considered as either the common heritage of mankind or no one’s property or the Wild West. Besides the provision of ecosystem services essential human survival, the marine space is believed to conceal tremendous national living resources and minerals, sustainably used and conserved, can contribute significantly to the wellbeing of the world growing populations and the good health of the entire planet. It is eyed by the developed economies as the “ultimate for the wellbeing of humanity” but the business expansion must wait until an effective global ocean governance mechanism while appropriate technologies, business models and financing are available. Until then, it is safe to use this common space as a vast marine protected area.
It is unthinkable to alleviate poverty, hunger and gender inequality in the IGAD region without the modernisation of the primary sectors, including the freshwater and marine. The productivity per hectare of rain-fed agriculture in the region is 2 to 3 times less than South-East Asia. The lion-share of the value-added of the livestock economy is swallowed by a few brokers and traders due to the absence of organised markets. Modern agriculture can feed the momentum of accelerated economic growth and diversification – by chipping in the manufacturing and service sectors. IGAD landlocked member-states have large inland water bodies - the inland oceans – to sustain their development. Therefore, a well-thought Integrated Sustainable Land-Ocean Marshall Plan is required to capitalise on the existing natural resources and development opportunities. IGAD has established several regional thematic agencies, policy and strategic framework and programmes but is in short of implementation capacity and financial resources.