Published On: 13 March 2023Categories: News

The Ocean Innovation Africa (OIA) is an annual event focused on showcasing entrepreneurship and innovation in blue economy sectors across Africa, with emphasis on sustainability and nature-based solutions. This year, the event took place from 21 to 24 February 2023 in Cape Town, South Africa gathering more than 500 delegates from 59 countries, with 90% of participants emanating from African countries.

The event welcomed participants from across the blue economy spectrum, including representatives from government ministries and agencies of several African states, start-ups, companies, fin tech investors, research institutes and universities, international bodies (IUCN, IOC UNESCO, the World Bank, World Economic Forum), regional bodies (WIOMSA, the Indian Ocean Commission) and NGOs.

Driven by a philosophy of accelerating innovation to create a positive impact on our oceans and coastal communities, OIA 2023 offered a main stage for over 20 start-ups to showcase their ocean-minded initiatives, addressing climate change, pollution or over-exploitation of marine resources. Innovative applications highlighted covered topics from producing commercial products from seaweed to sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, to circular economy solutions for plastics and waste in coastal areas.

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For video recordings of sessions during the event, click here.

OIA 2023 served as the Ocean Race Summit this year, purposefully coinciding with the round-the-world sailing race “the Ocean Race” stopover in Cape Town. An important element of the Ocean Race’s Racing with Purpose sustainability programme, the Ocean Race Summit serves to accelerate action for our marine world by helping to drive new and improved policies around the major issues affecting the ocean and advance support towards Ocean Rights. In line with the racing with purpose ethos, during the 32,000-mile-long Ocean Race 2022/2023, 4.3 million measurements of essential ocean parameters will be taken and more than 400 samples of marine litter will be collected.

EU4OceanObs in its drive to support the increased collection, sharing and use of ocean observations for the benefit of society participated in OIA 2023 as a sponsor, supporting the plenary session on Data, Exploration and Security and animating a stand at the Ocean-Impact Exhibition.

Some highlights

Dr Jacqueline Uku, Chairperson of Ocean Decade Africa Roadmap Taskforce from the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute) gave the opening key note address with a presentation of the African Ocean Decade Roadmap – a key document providing a vision and plan for diverse stakeholders to convene around a common set of priorities for the implementation of the Ocean Decade in Africa. In the long-term, the Roadmap will be used to establish and clarify institutions’ ocean science strategies and to help in the prioritisation of investments in scientific infrastructure, such as observations, monitoring, and data management.

In her address Dr Uku highlighted key priorities including strengthening the African components of the ocean observations network as part of the overall development of the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) and the need to establish an African ocean knowledge hub (Digital Twin for Africa) and ocean literacy programme.

In the discussions thereafter, the audience was reminded that conservation is not a top priority for many coastal communities in Africa. There is a need to be able to measure and provide evidence for tangible benefits in communities and these benefits need to be able to directly reflect improved livelihoods. And this is where ocean and coastal observations and monitoring have a strong role to play.

The plenary session “Data, Exploration and Security” focused on the main challenges of data sharing and access in Africa and the need to bridge the gap between science and policy to further ensure FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable) principles in data sharing as well as a role of the private sector in providing ocean data.

Moderated by Jaco Stemmet (Fugro), the panel discussion included Mika Odido (IOC UNESCO Sub Commission for Africa and the Adjacent Island States), Juliet Hermes (South African Environmental Observation Network (SAOEN)), Ronald Tardiff (World Economic Forum/ Uplink Programme) and Fabrice Messal (Mercator Ocean International/ Copernicus Marine Service). Some points and information highlighted.

  • Launch of Ocean Decade Corporate Data Group in Feb 2023 co-chaired by Fugro and IOC-UNESCO focused on creating frameworks and mechanisms to make privately owned ocean science data publicly available for the benefit of humanity.
  • There is a need for impactful and meaningful data, that is reproduceable, accessible and adapted to different user needs in line with the data priorities highlighted in the Ocean Decade Roadmap for Africa. “Data is not information, information is not knowledge, knowledge is not understanding, understanding is not wisdom.” – Clifford Stoll
  • There is a need to get to know the ocean as fast as possible and as cheap as possible in Africa, but many countries lack public resources (financial and technical). Less than half of coastal countries in Africa have oceanography centres and observing platforms, and there is a critical need for generation of data in African oceans and strengthened operational oceanography capacity.
  • Indigenous knowledge should be integrated where possible and be reconciled with scientific data.

As part of the plenary, Fabrice Messal (Mercator Ocean International) gave a presentation entitled “Improving ocean knowledge to inform sustainable action”, showcased Europe’s capacity for operational oceanography, data collection and sharing including Copernicus Marine Service, international objectives (SDG 14, UN Ocean Decade) and support for international ocean governance with mention of the G7 Future of the Seas and Oceans Initiative and the GEO Blue Planet Initiative.

David Shoshola and Hahn Goliath, two fishers from Cape Town, gave a fireside chat about protecting their livelihoods and those of their communities by working with Abalobi – a social entreprise that fosters fisher-driven Electronic Catch Documentation and Traceability (eCDT) technologies.

Abalobi works to contribute towards thriving, equitable and sustainable small-scale fishing communities globally, through the development of Technology For Good (Traceabilty tech, data & market platforms).

The Abalobi app covers entire supply chain from providing sea condition forecasts to tracking information on the catch and income earned after expenses, and also linking the fishers with buyers. The application is supported by the GMES & Africa programme, and uses Copernicus marine data among other data sources. The app also provides an e-learning platform with various resources for fishers and facilitators.

EU4OceanObs facilitated a stand at the ‘ocean-impact’ exhibition to promote European data, data products and services in support of ocean protection and a sustainable blue economy in Africa. The stand also highlighted training opportunities and hackathons (including the upcoming EMODnet Open Sea Lab 3.0 and Copernicus Marine events) and GEO Blue Planet activities. Discussions at the stand also collected feedback on user needs in terms of ocean data and information from start-ups and businesses, to end-users such as fishers, local authorities, NGOs working on ocean and biodiversity conservation, etc.

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