African governments should invest in tourism projects that promote climate resilience to ensure coastal communities are shielded from extreme weather events, poverty, hunger and disease, experts said on Monday.
The experts attending the blue economy conference taking place in Nairobi, stressed the need for governments and investors to pay attention to the health of marine ecosystem while constructing tourism facilities to ensure livelihoods of communities living along Africa’s coastlines are not disrupted.
“We need to develop our tourism sector in a green and sustainable manner to ensure marine resources that support millions of livelihoods are protected,” Joe Okudo, Kenya’s tourism principal secretary said on the sidelines of the blue economy summit.
Kenya is hosting the world’s inaugural blue economy conference that has attracted around 10,000 participants from 183 countries to explore innovative ways to harness ocean and inland fresh water resources to spur growth.
About ten Heads of State and Government drawn mainly from Sub-Saharan Africa as well as ministers, industry executives and scientists are attending the three-day event.
Okudo noted that tourism, shipping and aquaculture are strategic pillars of the blue economy whose growth is key to tackle Africa’s hunger, poverty, disease and ecological crisis.
“Moving forward, sound environmental practices should be embedded in the tourism sector that is heavily dependent on marine ecosystem to thrive,” said Okudo, adding that Kenya has developed policies to ensure investments in beach tourism promote conservation of mangrove forests.
African governments should factor the sustainability needs of coastal communities during utilization of marine resources to grow tourism, fisheries and shipping.
Rodolfo Lacy, director in the environment directorate at Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), said that development of tourism should be devoid of ocean pollution to help protect livelihoods of fishermen.
“The tourism infrastructure in Africa should be enhanced to ensure it withstands adverse effects of climate change like sea level rise,” said Rodolfo, adding that governments and industry have an obligation to protect marine resources during offshore oil drilling and construction of tourist resorts along African coastlines.
African countries should replicate global best practices to green the tourism sector and ensure economic benefits trickle down to coastal communities.
Douglas Wallace, an ocean scientist, said that investment in research and public awareness is key to promoting climate resilience tourism in a continent with a huge repository of untapped marine resources.