Participation at the Ocean Innovation Africa Summit

The Ocean Innovation Africa Summit edition 2023 organised by OceanHub Africa has closed its doors to the public. Mercator Ocean has participated at this event focused on entrepreneurship and innovation in the blue economy sectors in Africa, with an emphasis on sustainability and nature-based solutions. 

« Data, Exploration and Security » plenary session

The event organised the “Data, Exploration and Security” plenary, moderated by Jaco Stemmet (Fugro), with the participation of Mika Odido (IOC Africa), Juliet Hermes (SEAON), Ronald Tardiff (WEF) and Fabrice Messal (Mercator Ocean International). The discussion focused on the main challenges of data sharing and access; on the need to bridge the gap between science and policy to further ensure fair principles in data sharing.

« Data, Exploration and Security » round table

« Data is not information, information is not knowledge, knowledge is not understanding, understanding is not wisdom« 

Clifford Stoll


This panel discussion came after a “Pecha Kucha” (i.e., a 20-20 storytelling presentation: 20 visual slides with 20 seconds per slide) delivered by Fabrice Messal. Intitled “Improving ocean knowledge to inform sustainable action”, it introduced operational oceanography and exposed the increasing role it must play in informing sustainable action to support international ocean governance and the blue economy.

The Ocean Innovation Africa Summit also featured numerous roundtable sessions, gathering around 10 speakers on selected topics, plus the audience. Mercator Ocean was part of three roundtables:

  • Inclusive Innovation Pipeline Building: Hosted by the 1000 Ocean Startups Coalition, this workshop convened key investors, accelerators, entrepreneurs, and public sector voices to sketch out a roadmap for developing the ocean innovation pipeline in Africa. This workshop focused first on identifying the main challenges faced throughout the entire innovation pipeline, from ideation through to late-stage investment.
  1. Need to have greater access to ocean knowledge and data, to propose relevant ocean-positive solutions.
  2. Need to foster synergistic, cross-sectoral relationships between actors in the ecosystem.
  3. Need to work directly with communities to build holistic and inclusive solutions
  4. Need to build a blue economy trusted network, sourcing ideas and talents
  5. Need for a blended finance strategy to address the fragmentation of the innovation pipeline and offers the possibility for entrepreneurs to scale up.
  • Blue Carbon and Nature-Based Solutions: This workshop focused on the potential and challenges for marine and coastal nature-based solutions in Africa, particularly regarding the implementation of global blue carbon principles within the African context.
  • Francophone Africa Blue Economy: This workshop aimed to discuss ways to strengthen the francophone ocean community and pursue developing its role in the Africa Blue Economy while addressing how language can prevent access to information and training and sharing solutions to overcome this challenge.

EU4OceanObs facilitated a stand at the ‘ocean-impact’ exhibition, showcasing the European ocean observing services in support of ocean protection and a sustainable blue economy in Africa. Discussions at the stand also collected feedback on user needs in terms of ocean data and information from start-ups and businesses, to end-users such as fishers, local authorities, NGOs working on ocean and biodiversity conservation, etc.

SIGNING AN Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)

During the Summit, Mercator Ocean International has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Ocean hub Africa, an African ocean-impact catalyser. This agreement is an opportunity to reinforce the cooperation to support African ocean entrepreneurship. After several collaborations and joint events in 2022, the intention to partner further with Ocean Hub Africa came naturally considering our common objectives and our complementary skills. This 2-year agreement is a framework for future fruitful collaborations in the field of ocean solutions development in Africa.        

African initiatives led by Ocean Hub Africa will help MOI to better understand the constraints and the needs that are facing African entrepreneurs in the exploitation of marine products and services. This could inform and guide the improvement of the different services led by MOI such as the Copernicus Marine Service, and OceanPrediction. This collaboration will also help promote the objectives of EU4OceanObs to increase user uptake of EU ocean observing assets and grow support for in situ ocean observing in Africa. On the other side, MOI is committed to supporting Ocean Hub Africa and its network by sharing its expertise, providing mentoring, and co-organising capacity development workshops and activities.  

The first joint activity in the scope of this MoU will be the participation of Mercator Ocean in the Great Blue Wall Challenge as a Supporting Partner, organised by UpLink and the Friends of Ocean Action, in collaboration with OceanHub Africa and the IUCN. The goal of this two years project is:

  • to find ocean innovators in the Western Indian Ocean Region
  • to support Africa’s Great Blue Wall Initiative that was launched at COP26 in Glasgow.

Led by Western Indian Ocean countries with support from IUCN and a coalition of partners, this initiative aims to conserve, protect, and restore 2 million km2 of ocean and coastal ecosystems by 2030 while strengthening resilience to climate change and unlocking the development of a regenerative blue economy for the people and the planet.  Mercator Ocean will offer scientific expertise and mentoring to the selected cohorts of the Great Blue Wall Challenge, whose first challenge will be announced later this month.