ABEF2019: Women should be key to advancing Africa’s Blue Economy, says Leila Ben Hassen

Leila Ben Hassen – Organiser ABEF

Following its successful launch in London last year, the second Africa Blue Economy Forum – ABEF2019 –  will take place in Tunis on 25 -26 June, its organisers have announced. This year, the event will also have a strong focus on African women in this crucial economic development sector.

The nascent, yet reputable organised by Leila Ben Hassen, provides a unique platform for ocean stakeholders to share insights on how to achieve SDG 14 and to present new investment opportunities in both traditional and emerging ocean industries, while facilitating public-private partnerships and networking.

“This year’s Forum is designed as an action-oriented platform aiming to create partnerships, facilitate investments and ultimately create jobs for Africa’s youth while engaging more women in the Blue Economy value chain,” says Ms Ben Hassen Leila who is also founder and CEO of Blue Jay Communication.

A Tunisian national herself, Ms Ben Hassen also explains: “We have chosen Tunis as a city to host ABEF 2019 because of its location and history, acting as an important centre for maritime trade and an economic powerhouse at the crossroads between Europe and Africa…Tunisia was for long at the heart of a territory known as ‘Ifriqiya’ in Arabic, and the ‘Province of Africa’ in Roman times, giving the continent its present-day name.”

Women must be at the heart

In an OpEd published here last November, Mahawa Kaba-Wheeler, Director – Women, Gender and Development at the African Union Commission, weighed in on the importance of the sector, writing that the blue economy has rightly described as the ‘New Frontier of the African Renaissance’. Its potential for the  continent on which almost two thirds of its states have a coastline, whose trade is 90 percent sea-borne, is enormous…runs into the many trillions of dollars and promises to combine enormous economic growth with environmental conservation, if stewarded properly.

She stated: “Women must be at the heart of this inclusivity. Gender equality and women’s empowerment is at the heart of all African Union (AU) policies and actions and the blue economy is fertile ground to further women’s role in this transformative field.”

At its 31st Ordinary Summit in Nouakchott, she explained, the AU adopted its first Continental Strategy for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (2017-2027) to accelerate translate Agenda 2063 into reality for the millions of women and girls across the continent.

“The first pillar of this strategy is aimed at achieving economic autonomy for women through maximising outcomes and opportunities for them. The blue economy is one such target,” she wrote.

In Tunisia, ABEF will bring together more than 150 delegates from across the globe, including ocean experts and innovators, African political leaders and policy makers, international entrepreneurs and investors, as well as NGOs and multilaterals, to discuss the great potential of the blue economy to drive sustainable growth in Africa.
At the inaugural ABEF, speakers and delegates agreed on the need for innovative financing to start developing Africa’s blue economy on a wider scale, involving not only governments but also the private sector.

Building on these recommendations, ABEF2019 will have a strong focus on business and investment. Discussions will explore the opportunities and innovations in emerging and frontier sectors of the blue economy and how they can help accelerate Africa’s transformation.

Africa’s maritime industry is estimated at around US$1 trillion per year and the asset value of ocean economy ecosystems around US$24 trillion.

The Blue Economy has a unique potential to create jobs, sustain livelihoods for local communities and offer low-cost impactful climate change adaptation solutions on the continent.

“I believe that today we cannot speak about growth if it is not sustainable and taking into consideration the social and environmental impact,” Ms Ben Hassen stresses further.

Registration to attend is open here

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