Africa must lead the charge against marine pollution

Beaches littered with soda bottles and single-use takeout containers; rivers choked with plastic bags and cups; are a common sight to behold in many parts of Africa.

The marine plastic litter recently hit the front burner, when the Africa Blue Economy Forum (ABEF) revealed that plastic pollution alone costs $13 billion a year in damages to marine ecosystems.

The forum in its documents detailing its preparation for the 2019 edition in Tunis, said: “90 per cent of ocean plastic waste originates from Asia and Africa, mainly due to mismanagement of waste and can be traced to just 10 rivers, including river Niger,”

According to ABEF, oceans are increasingly being recognised as a major driver of the world’s economic development, but conservative estimates for the next 12 years suggest that the ocean economy would add yearly global value of around $3 trillion and contribute some 40 million direct full time jobs to the global labour market.

It noted that African governments have a major role to play in tackling ocean pollution and plastic waste in particular, noting that Africa is the second largest continent with 26,000 nautical miles of coastlines and maritime zones under its jurisdiction, totaling 13 million km2.

It stressed that linking the issue of ocean pollution with the blue economy development approach could help meet its targets set out in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs and the Africa Union’s Vision 2063).

Founder & CEO, Blue Jay Communication, Mrs Leila Ben Hassen, said among the important actions to achieve a sustainable blue economy was to strengthen pan-African partnerships and encourage more international collaboration.

“Hence we have decided to focus in this edition on developing more synergies between private and public sectors, between regional and international companies, attracting experts and investors in the blue economy sectors, and, ultimately, creating more job opportunities for Africa’s youth and women,” she stated.

Meanwhile, iWatch Africa is set to unveil an ambitious initiative dedicated to promoting ocean conservation and protection of marine resources before close of 2020.

Co-founder of iWatch Africa, Gideon Sarpong explained that the new initiative, “will work closely with the Fisheries Commission and Ghana Maritime Authority as well as other relevant institutions in Ghana to deal with ocean conservation, over-fishing and education of the public on dangers of improper disposal of plastic waste.”

United Nation’s Environment estimates that 15 per cent of marine litter floats on the sea’s surface, 15 per cent remains in the water column and 70 per cent rests on the seabed.

According to another study, about 5.25 million plastic particles, weighing 268,940 tonnes in total, are currently floating in the world’s oceans.

Another concerned agency, Ocean Unite stated: “The vast swirls of plastic rubbish visible on the sea surface – horrifying as they are – represent just the tip of the iceberg. What lies beneath are the masses of micro beads and broken-down particles of plastic that are easily ingested by sea creatures, and impossible to remove.

“The urgently needed solution calls for a combination of enhanced awareness, reduced plastic use, and massively improved waste management. The most effective way to have less plastic in the Ocean is to use less plastic in the first place,” it stated.

Credit: iWatch Africa

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Gideon Sarpong

Gideon Sarpong is a policy analyst and media practitioner with close to a decade of experience in policy, data and investigative journalism. Gideon is a co-founder of iWatch Africa. He is an author; a fellow of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), Thomson Reuters Foundation, Commonwealth Youth Program ,Free Press Unlimited and Bloomberg Data for Health Initiative. Gideon is the Ghana Hub Lead of Sustainable Ocean Alliance. He was a 2021 Policy Leader Fellow at the European University Institute, School of Trans-national Governance in Florence, Italy and 2020/21 Open Internet For Democracy Leader. Gideon was also a 2021/22 Visiting Scholar/Reuters Fellow at the University of Oxford, UK and was selected as a 2022 TRF/Trust Conference Changemaker. Email:

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