Blue economy investors roundtable note

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CASTRIES, St Lucia –  The Investors’ Roundtable will focus exclusively on investment opportunities in the Blue Economy. The event is scheduled to take place during the Sustainable Development Movement on September 23, 2020 in Saint Lucia. The opportunities that will be unveiled during the Roundtable are presented below.

Preamble

The private sector has been touted as the “Engine of Growth” within the region. Alongside the public sector which is responsible for establishing and maintaining the enabling environment for business to flourish, the private sector plays a critical role in delivering more robust economic outcomes and sustainable livelihoods in the OECS.

To ensure a facilitative and robust environment for business development and growth on the OECS, in 2016, the 1st Board of Directors of the OECS Business Council (OBC) was appointed to support reforms to improve the business environment. The vision of the OBC is to provide a common singular regional voice to the OECS private sector as the sub-region moves towards stronger unification. Issues identified for focus and action include the ease of doing business; the cost and efficiency of regional transportation; the cost and access to financing; and the cost of energy. To date, OECS countries have harmonised several areas of business regulations—such as business start-up, legal rights of borrowers and lenders, bankruptcy procedures and contract enforcement; and progress continues to be made to better facilitate business in the region.

Of note is the OECS Competitive Business Unit which works to support existing and emerging businesses through facilitating formal financing mechanisms, trade negotiations, domestic and international marketing, quality business intelligence, targeted training and financial support through innovate solutions such as Crowd Funding. The Unit is engaged in implementing several sector-specific programs, including Agri-business & Manufacturing; Creative Sectors including Craft, Fashion, Film, & Music; e-Business, Technology & Innovation; and TEECA: Trade Enhancement for the Eastern Caribbean.

Moreover, the OECS is interested in engaging with private sector partners, in exploring and taking up potential business opportunities, at national or regional scales, under blue economy areas, including:

  1. Fisheries and Aquaculture

The fisheries sector is critical to food and nutrition security, poverty eradication and sustainable development in the OECS. Fishing is also culturally significant in coastal communities; it underpins the livelihoods and well-being of these communities. Current policies in the region aim to sustainably expand, diversify, and modernise the fisheries sector to increase its contribution to income, employment and foreign exchange earnings.

Marine capture commercial fisheries in the OECS are primarily small-scale and artisanal in nature. It comprises of coastal and deep-water demersal fisheries, and coastal and offshore pelagic fisheries. Most of the catch comprises offshore migratory pelagic species such as dolphin fish, wahoo and tuna. Spiny lobster and queen conch also form an important component of the catch as main high-value fisheries. Flying fish forms an important, but variable component of the catch.

However, for the most part, very little processing occurs to serve niche markets, with a wide range of value-added fish products contributing to high fish imports. In the OECS, there is significant potential for investment in fish processing to provide a wider choice of value-added OECS fish products on the market (local and foreign) through processing, including adding value to underutilised and unused fish species through processing.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) notes that aquaculture has been expanding significantly for the past four decades, with implications for food security and nutrition, income generation and employment, and trade (Source: FAO. 2018. The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2018 – Meeting the sustainable development goals. Rome. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO). The FAO further notes that as the fastest growing food-producing sector, aquaculture makes a notable contribution to food security. Based on the assumption of higher demand and technological improvements, total world fish production (capture plus aquaculture, excluding aquatic plants) is expected to continue to expand, with the major growth in production is expected to originate from aquaculture. The OECS seeks partners to upscale aquaculture in the region and create value added fish products in support of blue growth and economic development.

  1. Blue biotechnology

Bioprospecting of marine resources offers a number of potential opportunities for business ventures. Living marine resources can be used for developing new food, biochemical, pharmaceutical, cosmetics and bioenergy applications, among others. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) notes that about 18,000 natural products have been developed to date from about 4,800 marine organisms, and the number of natural products from marine species is growing at a rate of 4 per cent per year. For example, in 2011 there were over marine delivered drugs in clinical development, including 15 in the field cancer of treatment. Research

and investment are needed to begin to develop this aspect of a blue economy in the OECS. Source: UNCTAD/DITC/TED/2014/5 United Nations Publication – The Oceans Economy: Opportunities and Challenges for Small Island Developing States

  1. Ocean energy

The marine space represents a significant untapped potential source for sustainable, renewable energy. Marine energy is a particularly important opportunity for Small Island Developing States (SIDS), like those of the OECS region, who are faced with challenges of limited land space and competing land uses, but are surrounding by vast ocean space. Marine energy is an emerging sector of the Blue Economy and while some technologies are still at the research and development phase, others such as fixed wind off shore wind, are not only commercially viable, but may be also be cost competitive within a SIDS context. Promoting and investing in sustainable energy as part of a blue economy through private public sector partnerships offer potential business development and growth in this area.

  1. Marine transportation

The World Bank undertook a pre-feasibility assessment of a regional ferry system, notably by providing data and statistics on the movement of people, cargo, prices of moving within the region, existing fleet of ferries, etc. It notably draws interesting lessons from two successful regional ferry systems: the Greek ferry system and the Baltic Sea ferry system. This pre-feasibility assessment demonstrated that a regional ferry system could make a positive contribution to tourism competitiveness in the OECS, and that a proper feasibility assessment of a regional ferry is warranted. In addition, there have been initial signs of interest from potential investors for financing a regional ferry. The study presents a number of concrete recommendations and next steps to making this regional ferry system a reality and the venture holds a number of business possibilities.

  1. Waste Management Businesses

A number of innovative enterprises have emerged in the recent past to address gaps in waste management systems and build sustainability through efficiencies. Given the economies of scale that an OECS approach presents, waste management businesses in areas such as recycling of scrap, electronics, plastic, rubber and waste water, can be explored. Of note is a two-year pilot project, titled RePLast, being implemented by UNITE Caribbean in Saint Lucia, in collaboration with private sector. This Project focuses on testing approaches and systems for setting up a plastic waste collection and recycling scheme to facilitate export of plastic from Saint Lucia. The outcomes and outputs from this Project can support business ventures through replicating, and upscaling actions from this project in other OECS member states.

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