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The coastal and marine resources provide the basis for substantial proportion of economic and social activities in Africa. This includes fishing, tourism, offshore mining (including oil and gas), navigation and other industries. In the 33 sub-Saharan African coastal countries, more than 50% of the population live within 100 km of the coast, and up to 40% of the African population derive their incomes from marine and coastal resources. By 2015, the coastal city of Lagos is expected to be the third largest city in the world with a population approaching 25 million. The World Tourism Organisation predicts that Africa will receive an estimated 77 million tourists by 2015, many of whom will use coastal and marine resources.

Africa, like other parts of the world is experiencing a steady migration of population to the coastal areas, in search of improved livelihoods and economic opportunities. The increased human activities along the African coastline have led to competition for use of coastal areas and resources by different sectors of the economy.  The stress on the coastal and marine resources causes problems such as: industrial and municipal pollution, untreated waste, coastal change and modification, destructive fishing and over-fishing, threats to the availability and use of water, invasive species, and global issues such as sea level rise and climate change. These human-driven factors exacerbate natural degradation of coastal resources due to storm surges, droughts and floods. Given that the lives and livelihoods of much of the coastal population are dependent on coastal/marine resources, conserving and sustainably managing these resources is essential to development and poverty alleviation in Africa.

The balancing of competing needs requires the elaboration of Integrated Coastal Management strategies; taking into account the needs to conserve the environment, while exploiting the resources sustainably to satisfy the needs of the different stakeholders. In response, many global, regional and national initiatives highlight the importance of sustainable management of coastal and marine resources in order to provide economic opportunities for today, whilst maintaining resources and ecosystems intact for the future. For example, Agenda 21, and the implementation Plan for the WSSD all emphasize the importance of sustainably managing coastal and marine resources.

The African coastal countries have established several structures to address the concerns that have been raised regarding the protection and development of the coastal environment and resources.

Convention for the Protection, Management and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the Eastern African Region (Nairobi Convention)

The Convention for the Protection, Management and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the Eastern African Region (Nairobi Convention) was adopted in Nairobi, Kenya in 1985, and entered into force in 1996. All the Contracting parties (Comoros, France (La Reunion), Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Somalia, the United Republic of Tanzania and South Africa have ratified the convention.

The main objectives of the Eastern African Action Plan are:

  • To promote the sustainable development and sound management of regional marine and coastal resources by:
  • Enhancing consultations and technical co-operation among the States of the region;
  • Emphasising the economic and social importance of the resources of the marine and coastal environment;
  • Establishing a regional network of co-operation on concrete subjects/projects of mutual interest for the whole region;

The 5th session of the Conference of Contracting Parties (COP) to the Nairobi Convention was held in conjunction with the Abidjan COP from 5-8 November 2007  in Johannesburg, South Africa. UNESCO-IOC was identified as a partner in implementation several activities including:

  • developing skills of managing organisations and programmes, as well as proposal writing and fundraising
  • a) Support for the development of a regional information system on the WIO marine and coastal environment and its management, including information on invasive species and climate change; b) Partner maintaining the Nairobi Convention’s Clearinghouse Mechanism.
  • a) Joint development of marine biodiversity databases (as part of information exchange;  b) AfroBis responsible parties for promoting information exchange
  • “Use of electronic information systems for awareness and information exchange” such as data and information management and shoreline change assessment.

The Convention for Co-operation in the protection and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the West and Central African Region (Abidjan Convention):

The Convention for Co-operation in the protection and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the West and Central African Region (Abidjan Convention) was adopted in 1981 and came into force in 1984.  There are 23 Contracting Parties to the Convention (Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mauritania, Namibia, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Togo).

The convention is a comprehensive, umbrella agreement for the protection and management of the marine and coastal areas. It lists the sources of pollution: pollution from ships, land based sources, exploration and exploitation of the sea-bed, and pollution from the atmosphere. It also identifies environmental management issues for which co-operative efforts are to be made: coastal erosion, specially protected areas, combating pollution in cases of emergency and environmental impact assessment. There are also articles on scientific and technological co-operation, and liability and compensation.

The eighth session of the Conference of Parties to the Convention, meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa in November 2007 endorsed a work plan focussing on (i) assessment of ecosystems and resources, land based activities and pollution sources, and socio-economic issues; (ii) management of ecosystem and resources, land based activities and pollution sources, and marine pollution sources, (iii) revision of the convention and its protocols, coordination with contracting parties and other partners and organisations, and institutional strengthening; (iv) information management and exchange, awareness building and community empowerment, and increased visibility for the convention.

The Contracting Parties to the Convention held an extra-ordinary session in Johannesburg, South Africa in June 2008 and adopted decisions focusing on: (i) enhancing institutional arrangements and collaboration, (ii) promoting ratifications/accessions to the Convention, (iii) reviewing the mandate and objectives of the Convention, (iv) transferring the Secretariat functions from Nairobi to Abidjan, (v) improving contributions to the trust fund and funding for the Convention, and (vi) an action plan for the revitalization process.

Coastal and Marine sub-theme of the NEPAD Environment programme (NEPAD/COSMAR)

The Pan-African Conference on Sustainable Integrated Coastal Management (PACSICOM), held in Maputo, Mozambique (1998) as part of the Year of the Ocean celebration, and resulted in a series of high level commitments to sustainable management and regional coordination. This was followed by the Cape Town Conference (also in 1998) which adopted the Cape Town Declaration. The Declaration included the African Action Plan and Strategy for the Development and Protection of the Coastal and Marine Environment in sub-Saharan Africa, otherwise known as the “African Process”. The African Process galvanised broad political support and contributed to generating awareness at all levels. It was endorsed by the Assembly of Head’s of States and Government meeting in Durban, South Africa in July 2002 as the coastal and marine component of the NEPAD Environment programme (NEPAD/COSMAR). The overall objective of NEPAD/COSMAR was to support the implementation of the objectives of the Abidjan and Nairobi Conventions, and assist African countries to implement the relevant provisions of the Global Plan of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land Based Activities. Five priority areas were identified: Coastal erosion, management of key ecosystems, pollution, sustainable use of living resources, and tourism.

The 34th Session of the General Conference of UNESCO meeting in 2007, approved a Medium Term Strategy for the period 2008 -2013 built around the following mission statement: “As a specialized agency of the United Nations, UNESCO contributes to the building of peace, eradication of poverty, sustainable development and inter cultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information”. The strategy accords global priority to Africa and gender equality. Action in favour of Africa will respect the priorities decided by Africa itself, through the Africa Union and its NEPAD programme.

The Overarching objective for the science programme is “Mobilizing science knowledge and policy for sustainable development”. UNESCO will seek to accomplish this overarching objective through three strategic programme objectives:

  • Leveraging scientific knowledge for the benefit of the environment and the management of natural resources,
  • Fostering policies and capacity-building in science, technology and innovation,
  • Contributing to disaster preparedness and mitigation

IOC activities will contribute to the first and third objectives. IOC has developed a Strategy based on this, which focuses on the following four High Level Objectives:

  1. Prevention and reduction of the impacts of natural hazards
  2. Mitigation of the impacts of and adaptation to climate change and variability
  3. Safeguarding the health of oceans ecosystems
  4. Management procedures and policies leading to the sustainability of coastal and ocean environment and resources

The emphasis of the Abidjan and Nairobi Conventions, as well as NEPAD/COSMAR and the UNESCO General Conference is on improvement of the quality of life of the human populations. Information and knowledge is key to any initiatives that will achieve this. ODINAFRICA provides a framework for collection and access to necessary scientific knowledge. It contributes to UNESCO’s commitment to leveraging scientific knowledge for the benefit of the environment and the management of natural resources.

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