The first-ever Blue Invest business forum to be held on the African continent, BlueInvest Africa 2022, is expected to further fuel entrepreneurship and participation of the private and public sectors in the fast developing sector of the Blue Economy on the continent, while also promoting innovative sustainable solutions.
The two-day international Business to Business (B2B) hybrid event, an initiative of the European Union (EU), was officially launched by President Wavel Ramkalawan at the Eden Bleu hotel yesterday morning.
With over 165 participants present and 37 African states represented, the event is serving as a meeting and exchange point for investment parties pooled across Europe and Africa, with African based entrepreneurs, small-scale businesses, start-ups, business projects and initiatives with the common interest to develop sustainable products and services in the Blue Economy and related sectors.
Over the course of yesterday and today, five pitching sessions have been organised for the twenty-two qualifying pitchers from registered African start-ups and business companies already operating in the various sectors of the Blue Economy. The pitchers are to have four minutes to engage with a panel, investors and financial institutions, to present their innovative and revolutionary business idea with the potential of influencing change, and providing solutions to the leading problems affecting the African continent, in the fields of Renewable Energy and Water solutions, solutions for the circular economy on plastic and waste, fisheries and aquaculture, solar power solutions and technology-enabled solutions.
President Ramkalawan, in his opening address, highlighted the importance of the world’s oceans as the cornerstone of international trade and as an untapped resource with huge potential towards addressing the needs of the African population not just in terms of food security, but also on sustainable development and growing economic opportunities available to all.
“Global effort and collaboration on all issues concerning oceans and aquatic resources should be at the forefront of our pre-occupations and our collective actions. Our aquatic resources are clearly our most valuable asset, all the more reason why the African Union (AU) has identified the Blue Economy as the continent’s new development pathway,” President Ramkalawan said.
“Oceans are also one of the least explored areas on our planet. They can offer solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems, such as in renewable and sustainable energy, extracting resources, medicine, food security, and much more. To unlock the potential of the sector, we need to foster a more practical, hands-on multi-sectorial approach that will stimulate the development of the entrepreneurial aspect of our Blue Economy,” President Ramkalawan stated.
The Blue Economy is a broad concept that encompasses all maritime activities and sectors, both traditional, like fisheries, and emerging activities such as blue biotechnology. Such activities can either be based in the marine environment (e.g. shipping, energy generation) or on land (e.g. coastal tourism, ports, land-based aquaculture). If compared to a national economy, the global Blue Economy would be the seventh-largest in the world, providing millions of direct jobs and generating significant revenues.
Despite the fact that no projects from Seychelles qualified for the pitching process, four micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) from Seychelles – namely, Seaweed Seychelles, the Ocean Cleanup Project, Brikole and Mariette Dine – are among the businesses exhibiting their products at the event, also an opportunity to network and interact with potential investors. Alongside them are others from Kenya, Mauritius, Ivory Coast and Tanzania.
As per directorate-general for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (MARE) of the European Commission, Charlina Vitcheva, the EU, one of the biggest donors in Africa, wants to set the ball rolling to bring about a shift to “on-the-ground business development, sustained, to the benefit of the people, to the benefit of the business communities” on the continent.
“We want to establish a process, a business community on the African continent, to link and connect like-minded people, to expand and propagate the potential of the Blue Economy, and to turn it into a real business case, for sustainable development, because sustainability is at the core of this initiative,” she said.
“However, between the ideas, sometimes coming from very small enterprises, and the business case, the gap has to be bridged by financial support and backing. That is why, this type of event, which is matchmaking, business to business, business to financial support investors is of crucial importance,” Ms Vitcheva said.
In addition to the core activity, the business pitches, and exhibition, participants will also hear from three TED talkers – Captain Londy Ncgobo, also known as the Black Mermaid, Africa’s first female Dredge Master, and Diana Orembe, a microbiologist researcher who has made a ground-breaking discovery of a bacteria-based protein for the feed industry. Pioneer Desiree Brouwer through her agency Nonzero Africa aims to leverage it and entrepreneurial expertise to help entrepreneurs in Africa grow.
The event has also generated significant international interest, with over 350 people following the event remotely, and the numbers expected to grow even further.