Member States to the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission for Africa and the Adjacent Island States (IOCAFRICA) convened on 15-17 March 2023 in Nairobi to review the Sub-Commission’s activities for the 2021-2022 biennium and deliberate on the workplan for 2023-2025 in the context of a promising regional landscape for sustainability and the blue economy.
Delegates from fifteen member states participated in-person while others participated virtually to undertake the work set out for the Session, which included the election of new IOCAFRICA Officers.
Key partners were also represented, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the United States, and the Second Institute of Oceanography of China. Both organisations shared their interest in continuing to collaborate with Africa and the Sub-Commission in the implementation of relevant programmes for the advancement of ocean science and research in the region.
The Seventh Session of IOCAFRICA opened with interventions by Professor Hubert Gijzen, Regional Director for UNESCO Eastern Africa; Professor Kuadio Affian, the Chair of IOCAFRICA; and Madam Betsy Muthoni Njagi, Principal Secretary for Blue Economy and Fisheries of the Republic of Kenya (remarks read by Dr. Davies Makilla).
Professor Gijzen emphasized the ocean’s importance as a new frontier for the continent’s development while urging IOCAFRICA to produce transformative science which supports the region in harnessing its ocean and coastal resources.
Professor Affian highlighted the strong partnerships developed by the Sub-Commission with the Africa Union through the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security and Africa (GMES & Africa) and Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) AFRICA.
The Principal Secretary expressed Kenya’s delight in hosting the Session, underscoring the importance of having a unified African voice and working together through knowledge and experience sharing on matters concerning the blue economy and the ocean.
Main Outcomes of the Session
Member States proposed four recommendations to be presented at the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) Assembly in June 2023, related to the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) in Africa, the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030 (The Ocean Decade), partnerships and resource mobilization, and the IOCAFRICA work plan and budget.
The work plan includes activities IOCAFRICA should implement for the period 2023-2025, under four thematic areas: Ocean Observations and Data and Information Management, Ocean Science and Application to Management, Capacity Development for Marine Science and Technology, and Ocean Literacy Public Awareness and Advocacy.
Member States also elected new IOCAFRICA Officers for the period 2023-2025: Prof. Kouadio Affian from Côte d’Ivoire was re-elected as Chair; Dr Zacharie SOHOU from Benin (Group A), Ms. Cândida Inês Sete from Mozambique (Group B), and Dr Suzan M. El-Gharabawy from Egypt (Group C) as Vice Chairs.
The Ocean Decade in Africa
Member States expressed their gratitude for the Sub-Commission’s continued efforts, particularly, in capacity development and the implementation of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030).
The United National Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, the ‘Ocean Decade’ (2021-2030), is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to trigger the ocean knowledge revolution that is much needed, especially in Africa where there are critical gaps in ocean data and knowledge. This body of knowledge is vital for the development of evidence-based ocean policies and science-based management decisions.
IOCAFRICA played a key role in developing the Ocean Decade Africa Roadmap, launched at the ‘African Conference on Priority Setting & Partnership Development for the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development’, hosted by Egypt in May 2022. The Ocean Decade Africa Roadmap is a major milestone for the region to inspire and motivate African organizational and individual champions to take initiatives for a more sustainable and prosperous future.
Following the IOCAFRICA Session, the first in-person meeting of the African & Adjacent Island States Ocean Decade Taskforce took place on 3-4 April 2023, also in Nairobi. Key outcomes include an initial design of a new African Decade programme on sustainable ocean economy and a comprehensive workplan for the Taskforce for the next 2 years.
The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO) promotes international cooperation in marine sciences to improve management of the ocean, coasts and marine resources. The IOC enables its 150 Member States to work together by coordinating programmes in capacity development, ocean observations and services, ocean science, tsunami warning and ocean literacy. The work of the IOC contributes to the mission of UNESCO to promote the advancement of science and its applications to develop knowledge and capacity, key to economic and social progress, the basis of peace and sustainable development.