East and Southern Africa (ESA) comprises ten coastal countries bordering the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) – Comoros, France, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa and Tanzania.
In 2017, the ten countries had a total population of 220 million people, 69 million of whom live in the coastal zone, and benefit from over US$20.8 billion in economic benefits from the ocean each year. This is 4th in size compared to national economies. But this value is under threat from rapid development, multiplying uses and impacts of climate change, seen in declining fish stocks, degraded ecosystems and lower productivity.
Both the African Union, through its Agenda 2063, and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), have identified the sustainable blue economy – economic activity and growth that depend on a healthy ocean – as a cornerstone for countries to transform into middle-income and emerging economies in the 21st century. The United Nations Agenda 2030 further enshrines the central role of the ocean for sustainable development through Goal 14 (SDG14), to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources “, to lift millions of people out of poverty.