Encyclopedia of Sustainable Management

Living Edition
| Editors: Samuel Idowu, René Schmidpeter, Nicholas Capaldi, Liangrong Zu, Mara Del Baldo, Rute Abreu

African Integrated Maritime Strategy 2050: Challenges for Implementation

  • Ibukun Jacob AdewumiEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-02006-4_1004-1

Introductory Background

Globally, the roles played by ocean and seas in the Earth system are still not fully known, so is the information to adequately understand its impact on human activities remains nascent (Ehlers 2016). But from existing knowledge, marine ecosystems worldwide provide essential goods and services for the benefit of nature and mankind (Duarte 2000; Palumbi et al. 2012). However, these ecosystems are threatened by multiple pressures and interactions, while there is a paucity of facts about the cumulative effects on maritime activities (Holon et al. 2018; Cormier et al. 2019). Hence, the range of interactions between anthropogenic and climatic pressures makes the management of the marine domain a complex task (McQuatters-Gollop 2012). The twenty-first-century ocean and climate change challenges have many faces, and there are different pathways to curtailing these challenges depending on the contexts. Among these pathways are marine management frameworks (e.g. Marine Spatial Planning, Integrated Coastal Zone Management) which utilize ecosystem-based management approach to increase social security, economic prosperity, and environmental protection –even beyond national boundaries and single-state stakeholders.

Cavallo et al. (2016) explain that the transboundary nature of the marine environment requires concerted actions among neighbouring countries to improve its quality in an effective way. Several initiatives have been taken worldwide to promote international coordination and integrated approach in marine management (Cavallo et al. 2019). Therefore, an integrated maritime strategy supporting such actions can help resolve issues in a polycentric governance context, especially where incomplete understanding and knowledge prevent potential win-win alternatives to emerge over the lose-lose conflictual current situation.

Africa is a “continental Island,” exhibiting uniqueness as it is flanked by a quadrilateral maritime belt (Rao 2014). With 54 countries, only 15 are landlocked states indicating that maritime economy is of great importance to the littoral states (see Fig. 1). Hence, increased disturbance of the marine ecosystem and safety have cumulative impacts on African coastal communities and their subsistence – a role that cannot be overemphasized (Francis and Bryceson 2001; UNDP 2013; Engel 2014; IMS-UD/UNEP 2015). Nonetheless, just like in other climes, there is an increasing level of pressure and challenges at the regional and continental levels from both traditional and emerging maritime activities, exacerbated by climate change (Kebe 1990; FAO/UNEP 2016; Okafor-yarwood 2018; UNEP 2018); threatened by maritime security issues (Blank 2013; Hodgkinson 2013); and unstable and fragile political regimes (Rao 2014). While this warrants an integrated regional approach through a framework of action, African States are still unable to individually or collectively ensure a stable maritime order and governance in their maritime domain (Rao 2014). After all, maritime challenges in the region are almost homogenous, and common solution is needed if the continent is to successfully benefit from the potential of its maritime economy (Walker 2017).
Fig. 1

Map of Africa showing coastal and landlocked countries (data source: Flanders Marine Institute 2019)

Prior to 2014, there was invariably measly and inconsistent political and economic appreciation of the values of the ocean capital, and the management/governance of marine resource was predominantly sectoral. Besides, there was inadequate integration of common policy framework at national, subregional, and regional levels for the delivery of collective actions to safeguard the regions oceans and seas (Engel 2014; Ukeje 2015; Walker 2015b; IMS-UD/UNEP 2015). Africa countries recognized the need to move towards an integrated management and governance, adopting the 2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS) in 2014. Upon the adoption of on the AIMS by the African Union Commission (AU) in 2014, a Strategic Plan of Actions was equally adopted – highlighting the major activities necessary to attaining the stated objectives, indicators of outputs, and responsible intuitions with responsibilities for the implementation of identified activities.

In 2019, the 2050 AIMS Plan of Action entered the second cycle (2019–2030) of its implementation, intending to fulfill the medium-term objectives of “improving maritime workforce and research capacity, accentuating on programmes necessary to promote Research and Human resource development.” But scholars like Walker (2017) and Egede (2018) have argued that the implementation of the Plan of Action is principally failing due to lack of resources and expertise by the African Union (AU). However, at this stage of its supposed implementation, it is especially important to have a full picture of what the major impediments are, how to forestall them, and the necessary next steps for a successful implementation.

Just as the dynamics of strategy implementation in the marine sector is still in its infancy, this present chapter gives a general literature review on strategy implementation in other practice and knowledge field. With this understanding, salient issues emerging from the implementation of strategies in the marine domain are highlighted. Using the 2050 AIMS as a practical case study, impediments to its implementation as indicated by experts and scholars in the region were elucidated. Afterwards, the author amplified those factors which are more important to the 2050 AIMS’s implementation from his viewpoint. Finally, the chapter concludes by proposing recommendations to overcome these impediments for the current and future implementation phases of the 2050 AIMS. These recommendations can also be considered in the implementation of other Africa-wide instruments with similar reach and mandate.

The 2050 African’s Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS)

The African Union (AU) (OAU formally became the AU in 2002), formerly the Organisation of Africa Unity (OAU), was established in 1963, with the Secretariat headquartered in Addis Ababa. The AU, acceding to the OAU Charter of 1963 (OAU 1963), and pursuing the objectives enshrined in the 2000 Constitutive Act (AU 2000), purposes to promote and coordinate efforts of its Member States toward an Africa that is united and integrated; imbued with the ideals of justice and peace; inter-dependent and robust; underpinned by political, economic, social, and cultural integration; committed to sustainable development; and devoted to ensuring the progress and prosperity of its citizens. Among the important tools used to express and galvanize these collective commitments is the development of policy documents that articulate the commitments, roles, and responsibilities of the Member States and the Secretariat toward goals and issues.

Out of a body of Africa-wide marine-related documents, the 2050 AIMS is the overarching framework which all member states are expected to follow (IMS-UD/UNEP 2015; Walker 2015a), to ensure complementarity among objectives and avoid overlaps in the path to sustainable wealth creation and maritime safety. Adopted in 2014, this ambitious strategy serves as the overarching framework for Africa to confront several of its maritime challenges, beyond a counter-piracy agenda. It intends to accelerate wealth creation and maritime safety sustainably by achieving four aims and 12 strategic objectives (Fig. 2).
Fig. 2

Twelve objectives of the 2050 AIMS (Source: AU, 2012)

Also adopted alongside the 2050 AIMS in 2014 was its Plan of Action to operationalize the strategy over the 2013-2050 period. Both the 2050 AIMS and the Plan of Action were innovative in several ways. First, they called for intersectoral action based on seven strategic areas that have a crosscutting impact on a range of priority maritime issues the continent is confronted with. For each strategic area captured in the Plan of Action, there were clear objectives, indicators, and recommended actions on the interagency, regional, and subregional. In addition to the 11 strategic programs, the Plan of Action proposed 21 objective goals, with 61 action target and 65 measures of outputs to help quantify and monitor the 2050 AIMS’s impact on the regional and country levels.

It is to be noted that the possibility of establishing new institutions and structures has been forecasted in the Action Plan, including extended focus on human capacity development for maritime governance (AU 2012). However, issues bothering on the financial requirements and implication to actualize the intention enshrined in the action plan were not documented either as at when the AIMS was adopted or till date.

Implementing Strategies Vis-à-Vis Marine Strategies

The definitions to what a strategy really is has always been given selective attention (Hax and Majluf 1988), and based on diversity of perspectives (Noble 1999). But to put it simple and straight, strategy is about success (Foundation of Strategy, n.d.). It recognizes the existing state of affairs, provides a vision for what the future should look like, and devises a plan of action for how to get from the present to the future (ACSS 2016). However, the bane of strategy is implementation, the de facto success rate of intended strategies (Raps 2005). Therefore, an assessment of strategy implementation processes becomes crucial for practitioners and researchers alike in order to conduct and evaluate different implementation processes (Thompson et al. 2007). But at least, there are pieces of literatures in the strategy formulation and implementation field that have explored these dynamics. The 1980s show a rise in the study of strategy implementation. Waterman et al. (1980) proposed one of the earliest known work in this regard, putting forward the McKinsey’s 7-S framework which identified seven implementation factors consisting of strategy, structure, system, style, staff, skills, and subordinate goal. Jiang and Carpenter (2013) referenced several other studies such as Stonich, (1982), Hrebiniak and Joyce (1984), Galbraith and Kazanjian (1986), and Reed and Buckley (1988) who have also presented similar implementation factors adding to Waterman’s voice. However, these earlier works were deemed not enough on the ground that they merely referred to individual factors, and neither did they provide explanation about their interrelationship nor empirically tested (Kazmi 2008).

Though Okumus (2001) reported that studies in the strategic management field had revealed the lack of knowledge on strategy implementation, more research is essential. This perhaps is also due to the lack of a cohesive body of existing implementation research (Noble 1999). After a critical review of previous frameworks, Okumus (2001) came up with ten key variables for strategy implementation: strategy formulation, environmental uncertainty, organizational structure, culture, operational planning, communication, resource allocation, people, control, and outcome. However, contrary to Kazmi (2008) critique of earlier works failing to explain the interrelationship between the factors, Oskooee (2017) explains that these factors are so close and often overlap to the extent that prioritizing them becomes difficult.

To deal with this unprecedented level of change in today’s competitive, dynamic, and unpredictable world, 15 years after Okomus (2001) revealed the dart of studies on strategy implementation, Katamei, Omwono, and Wanza (2015) disclosed that a lot of thoughts have been focused on strategy implementation. The complexity and dynamism are evenly largely observed also in today’s marine space. But one would wonder why there has not been significant study shedding light in the maritime field, despite indication by experts and scholars to the difficulties in the implementation of maritime strategies (McQuatters-Gollop 2012; Walker 2015b; Cavallo et al. 2016, 2019). Most research in this area either concentrates on commercial organizations or programs of global funders and development partners with little or no attention paid to the challenges encountered in the process of implementing maritime strategies. Whereas, effective implementation of strategy is a key factor to achieve strategic success (Oskooee 2017). This, in turn, reveals that focus also needs to be centered on the issue of strategy implementation in the marine domain.

In the marine/maritime field, few studies have drawn attention to the difficulty in implementing strategies directed at achieving sustainability either sectorally (Garcia and Prouzet 2009; McQuatters-Gollop 2012; Fulton et al. 2014) or holistically (Walker 2015b; Egede 2018; Cavallo et al. 2016, 2019). This challenge comes from the entire spectrum of the strategy itself, from its formulation to its review process. McQuatters-Gollop (2012) researched on the challenges for implementing the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) in a climate of macroecological change. Recently, Cavallo et al. (2019) reviewed the impediments to the implementation of MSDF with particular focus on challenges related to transboundary cooperation and policy integration. After identifying the salient present and future challenges (Table 1), based on Newton and Elliott (2016), they were categorized as either “bottlenecks” (the easily solved), “showstoppers” (would require more effort to solved), and “train-wrecks” (most difficult to stop and discovered). After assessing the implementation of the 2050 AIMS, Walker (2015) concluded that its implementation is the most difficult part, as key activities in the plan of action have not yet been undertaken.
Table 1

Examples of “bottlenecks,” “showstoppers,” and “train-wrecks” in marine management (Cavallo et al. 2019)




• Insufficient monitoring budget

• Lack of (shared) targets [2.3, 2.4]

• Decision on indicator aggregating methods

• Multiple stakeholder fora [2.6]

• Lack of data (ecological, social, and economic) [2.1, 2.4, 2.6, 2.7]

• Excessive and redundant advice documents [2.1]

• Lack of harmonized and generic indicators [2.2, 2.4, 2.7]

• Complex regulation [2.4, 2.5]

• Complex reporting [2.1, 2.4]

• Lack of experts with multidisciplinary background

• Overlapping designation

• Sectoral management (e.g., separate management for fisheries, energy, nature conservation) [2.5, 2.6]

• Poor coordination among national agencies

• Different economic prerogative (i.e. blue growth with precedence over GES) [2.2, 2.6]

• Lack of use of technologies

• Short timescale

• Resistance to collaborate

• Lack of dedicated funding

• Legal challenges

Political will

• Unwillingness to adopt joint aims/vision

• Inflexible planning system

• Sociocultural conflict

The numbers in brackets in column 1 and 2 refer to the sections in the main text where challenges related to transboundary cooperation and policy integration are discussed. Illustrations of train-wrecks are evaluated in the Discussion section.

Challenges of Implementing the 2050 AIMS: Experts’ Perspective

The Blue Economy has been made cardinal to the vision of AIMS (Walker 2015b; Egede, 2019; Hussain 2019). More so, its importance is vivid in many high-level policy documents such as the Lome Chater, Agenda 2063, etc. The AU’s 387th Peace and Security Council final communiqué in 2013 expressly identified the Blue Economy as the “new frontline of Africa’s renaissance.” However, scholars and reports have faulted the AIMS, arguing that the strategic importance the AU accorded to the Blue Economy would be (has been) problematic to its implementation under its current operations. Walker (2017) identified three deficits to this effect:
  1. 1.

    The need to define the term “Blue Economy,” emphasizing that a major challenge to maritime stakeholders is that that the AIMS did not do justice to what the term means both legally and in practice. This argument is apt as ideally, maritime policies for Africa should be developed as a process around a defined Blue Economy and maritime security (Swanepoel 2017).

  2. 2.

    The inability to establish a dedicated standalone maritime entity within the AU, with the mandate to coordinate and steer action toward accomplishing the 2050 AIMS’s objectives. Even though this need has been recommended by a 2009 resolution of the Third Sea Power for Africa symposium in Cape Town (Wingrin 2009), established within 2050 AIMS itself, and supported by African maritime minsters in the Addis Ababa Declaration of 2012 which endorsed 2050 AIMS.

  3. 3.

    The inefficiency of the 2050 AIMS Strategic Task Force (STF). The STF has incessantly failed to convene consistent meetings critical to the implementation of the 2050 AIMS as mandated by the 2014 Malabo Declaration (AU. 2014).

Egede (2018) believes that the 2050 AIMS is seemly complex, and its implementation would be challenging — emphasizing that achieving coherence with the different wide-ranging maritime issues it tends to address is difficult. This coherence, he said, would only be achieved if these three core issues are put in the front burner:
  1. (a)

    Effective coordination. Just like Walker (2017), he advocated for a prominent department in the AU with clear mandate, like the UN Department of Ocean Affairs (DOALOS) that would coordinate the 2050 AIM Strategy and the various aspects of the African Blue Economy.

  2. (b)

    Information flow. To keep the implementation of the 2050 AIM on the front agenda of the AU assembly, a reporting mechanism (like the United Nations Secretary-General’s annual oceans report to the General Assembly) should be dedicated to communicating annual reports on the progress made in the implementation of the strategy and the Lomé Charter, presented to the Assembly by the AUC Chairperson, and posted on the AU website.

  3. (c)

    Nexus approach. With the 2050 AIMS acknowledging the inter-connectivity of maritime issues, paying cognizance to the interaction and interdependence (the nexus) of the different issues, and communicating them accordingly would aid its implementation.


Challenges of Implementing the 2050 AIMS: Author’s Perspective

Blue Economy Is a Contested Concept (Never Done Before)

The 2050 AIMS anchors itself on the precepts of the Blue Economy. However, arguments have ensued about what the “Oceans Economy,” “Blue Economy,” or “Blue Growth” concept really means at global, regional, and national levels. Specialists and researchers have presented several definitions. The Economist Intelligence Unit believes that “A sustainable ocean economy emerges when economic activity is in balance with the long term capacity of ocean ecosystems to support this activity and remain resilient and healthy” (Goddard 2015). The World Bank in a report on “The Potential of the Blue Economy: Increasing Long-Term Benefits of the Sustainable Use of Marine Resources for Small Island Developing States and Coastal Least Developed Countries,” implied Blue Economy as: “the range of economic sectors and related policies that together determine whether the use of oceanic resources is sustainable.” These definitions and others remain contested, and the need for a clear meaning remains active, even as it is related to its usage in the 2050 AIMS (Walker 2015b; Egede 2018). Though as variant as the available definitions of the concept might be, the truth is that there is no unique definition of the concept, as it is only caught up in language schematics based on context and the interpreter.

Fred W. Riggs in his 1979 article “The importance of concepts: some considerations on how they might be designated less ambiguously” pointed to the fact that the use of different technical words, terms, and nomenclatures in social science also have a wide variety of connotations in everyday usage. He referred “concept” as a way of distinguishing between the various meanings of word (Riggs 1979). Bassey (2000) quoting Eugen Wüster (1974) also lends a voice stating that, the starting point of all terminology work is the concept and indicates why terminologists speak about concepts while linguists speak about meaning. Anyway, in relevance to this study, what is certain is the inevitable effect of the meaning on the Blue Economy concept on the strategy implementation, because it affects the ways of perceiving solutions to maritime issues and even thinking about them. Unfortunately, even just for the sake of it, the 2050 AIMS has not provided an “African” version of what Blue Economy “should” mean. Swanepoel (2017) believes that immediately this concept is better understood, and legally defined, African countries can continue their work to incorporate Blue Economy into national maritime policies.

Another connected factor here impeding the implementation of the 2050 AIMS is the shock of something new and fresh. Due to the complexity of what the 2050 AIMS professes, some AU Member States are still resistant to change, and still prefers the status quo of sectoral management approach. Resistance to change according to Hrebiniak (2013) and David (2011) is often the single greatest obstacle to effective implementation of strategy. Most African countries even though bounded by the sea, and fully aware of the myriads of ocean challenges confronting them, still perceive that it would be foolhardy to go into the integrated ocean governance scheme as preached by the 2050 AIMS. However, the 2050 AIMS has not provided a kind of contingency plan or alternative scenario that could accelerate buy-in at national level.

Structures to Achieve Coordination and Coherence at National, Regional, and AU Levels Not Adequate

Just as coordination at international level is essential for the implementation of environmental policies aimed at reducing the consequences of constant interaction between nature and uses such as shipping and fishing (Cavallo et al. 2016), the success of Africa’s maritime future lies in coordinated, integrated actions and policies for combined and joint projects (Walker 2019). The growing importance of maritime activities such as fisheries, shipping, resource extraction, tourism, and offshore renewable energy across Africa’s seas requires strong political coordination among countries that share the same marine area to ensure more sustainable management of the marine environment. This is also relevant as the ecosystem approach expressly professed by the 2050 AIMS requires cross-cutting implementation (no silos). However, the structure to do so is technically absent, or grossly inadequate (IMS-UD/UNEP 2015), even though the 2050 AIMS presented the development of new institutions and structures as part of its objectives. For example, the proposed Special Task Force (S2TF) saddled with the responsibility to oversee the realization of the proposed Combined Exclusive Maritime Zone of Africa (CEMZA) is yet to be put in place. Even the (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency (NPCA) whose mandate within the AU is to coordinate the implementation of AU’s programs of action have not attempted forging coherence and coordination of the targets embodied by the 2050 AIMS. Whereas, having structure proportional to strategy is a critical factor in the strategy implementation (Oskooee 2017). Also, the definition of how to create coordination is not visible within the 2050 AIMS and its Plan of Action – as it does not adequately define whether existing or proposed implementing organizations should be dependent or run more independently; if coordination should be done in a coalition or not; and even if the organizations responsibilities should requires a high level of coordination or not.

Absence of Adequate Institutional Power and Information Sharing Capacity

Power had been identified as a key factor for the successful implementation of the strategy (Hrebiniak 2013). Even though power can have negative performance in strategy implementation, it mostly facilitates the development and implementation of strategy (Oskooee 2017). The weight of the 2050 AIMS exceeds the organizational value and power structure of the 2050 AIM Strategy Task Force (STF) set up in June 2011, which marks why it has been said to record more failures that points. Given the glaring failure of the STF, it is time for the AU to adjust its structure to suit the needs of the 2050 AIMS by urgently putting in place a better empowered organizational unit, where there would be a proper balance between centralization and decentralization of decision-making in favor of the correct implementation of the 2050 AIMS. Hence, corroborating earlier arguments put forward by Walker (2017) and Egede (2018) expressing that the responsibility to coordinate and implement the 2050 AIMS should go beyond the STF. However, contrary to Walker and Egede’s idea of a standalone department within the AU, and seeing the inefficiency of the NPCA as an agency of the AU, a counterpart technical commission (African Blue Economy Commission) just like the African Energy Commission or body such as the African Union-Inter Africa Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) be created, as commissions are more independent and with statutory legal power and competency. This would also help in delegating responsibilities more efficiently (whether on board, Working Groups, Advisory Groups, etc.) and activate the process of coordination.

Checking through different repositories, hardly could one find documents relating to the progress of implementing the 2050 AIMS. This to a large extent stems from the inadequate capacity of the STF. A recognized impediment to implementation of the strategy and (organizational learning) is poor communication (Beer and Eisenstat 2000). By establishing a dedicated organization saddled with the responsibilities to coordinate and implement the 2050 AIMS, the efficiency of designing a functional plan or strategy (e.g., as suggested by Egede, 2018) for determining how information sharing and knowledge transfer will be attained surfaces.

Potential Implementation Burden Rising from Disproportionate Operational Planning

Robbins and Coulte in their 2012 classics Management alluded that operational planning is to choose the means to achieve short-term goals (Robbins and Coulter 2002). The 2050 AIMS Plan of Action have 11 strategic programs, 21 objectives goals, and 61 target actions which would not be said to be too cumbersome or superfluous of such. However, apart from the fact that preconditions (such as proper coordination and presence of capable implementing organizations, timely availability of funds, effective monitoring) to implement the 2050 AIMS are simply not available or inadequate, the operational programs presented to achieve the 2050 AIMS are mostly short term, while the 2050 AIMS has a long-term horizon. And to implement a strategy, the designing of appropriate programs is necessary (Hrebiniak 2013). Perhaps Abah (2017) is right by saying that “Africa’s problem is planning, not implementation!”. His statement validates Oskooee’s (2017) assertion that even if strategies are formulated properly, it does not guarantee successful implementation; hence, a successful implementation of the strategy should be planned. As the marine ecosystems are interconnected both vertically and horizontally beyond legal boundary, so are the various maritime activities, uses – requiring regional and global responses. The interconnectedness of maritime issues and its relationship with the 2050 AIMS has been elucidated by Egede (2018). Hence, programs with a long-term vision taking into consideration the interwoven relationship between different maritime sectors and uses should have been proposed. This deficiency in the 2050 AIMS regarding operation plan also springs up the issue of funding. Operation plan ensures successful implementation of action and monitoring, and at the same time necessitates the preparation of project funds and identification of clear sources of funds (WWF 2007). However, neither the 2050 AIMS nor its Plan of Action contains any information on funding to implement stated objectives. This would once again reinforce the ongoing argument that funding is one of the reasons why projects fail in Africa (Ika and Saint-Macary 2014; Marabuka 2013).

Lack of Knowledge and Data

The 2050 AIMS has listed Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) as one of the instruments to ensure coordinated and coherence ocean governance in Africa. However, MSP approach among others, leverages on evidence-based, verifiable data and stakeholders participation for its short- and long-term operation and process (Blæsbjerg et al. 2009; IOC-UNESCO 2009; Gunton et al. 2010; Gimpel et al. 2015; Siddiki and Goel 2015). Interestingly, the 2050 AIMS acknowledge that a robust and precise data is needed for any analysis aimed at informing policy makers, and also admit that such data were limited or nonexistent. Throughout the document, need for, and the intention to fast track data collection, storage, and sharing was resounding. It proposed:
  1. 1.

    Including pooling of knowledge into an African marine data center

  2. 2.

    Creating a maritime database generation and maritime information exchange network

  3. 3.

    Data gathering and statistical information, nodal point for cross-sector maritime


Till date, unfortunately, the reality remains that there are no such data or facilities available, and this seem not to be a new experience in the region. The lack of data has been generally blamed for Africa’s inability to adequately cater for its conservation needs (Kudom-Agyemang 2019). The complexity of ensuring the implementation of 2050 AIMS with its myriads of actors and drivers make the need for data increasingly desirable. The failure to address this would create a vicious cycle of challenges inhibiting the implementation of the strategy and the realization of evidence-based, empirically backed marine policy options in Africa. For example, assessing the implementation of the 2050 AIMS at regional, subregional, and country level will be challenged due to lack of data and information sharing channels. Of course, this would be aggravated by low institutional capacities across, and glassy communication between sectors, institutions, and stakeholders. These vicious cycles thus will affect existing (if any) mechanisms put in place to ensure stakeholders participation in the implementation process.

Recommendation and Conclusion


Several key conclusions can be drawn from the study which has implications for the implementation of the 2050 AIMS and other documents of its kind both in Africa and in other climes. First, issues related to strategy implementation cuts across different research and practice domain, where even the business and corporate sectors are still grappling with implementation challenges. The literature review aspect of this study also reveals that a significant amount of literature about strategy implementation is out there and that a close analysis of their findings indicates that the variables identified to be impediments to implementing strategies in the business, management, and corporate world are similar and inter-related to the factors the author deduces as impediments to implementing the 2050 AIMS. Hence, those in charge of evaluating and reviewing the implementation of marine strategies would benefit from the range of resources already available that can be compared. The literature review also espoused that there are few papers and experts’ opinions on maritime strategy implementation, and their conclusion about the challenges is similar and overlapping.

Based on authors’ experience and perception of the 2050 AIMS, those factors limiting the implementation of the 2050 AIMS are products of the process, tactical and operational deficiency of the strategy. They include issues with the novelty of the concept which the strategy is predicated, inadequate mechanism for cooperation, and misnaming critical programs and targets of the Plan of Action at regional and national level. Issues related to low political buy-in, and competent institutions to coordinate and champion the implementation of the strategy were also identified. Tactically, the operation planning of programs and lack of budgeting provisions, plus the complete absence of data on progress of implementation, also inhibits the implementation of the strategy.

Therefore, it can be claimed that the process of formulating the 2050 AIMS and its Plan of Action, right from the design to implementation phase have largely contributed to the low success in implementing the strategy. It should also be noted that internal context plays a key role in achieving the goals and objectives of maritime strategies, and focusing on the implementation process alone and ignoring the wider context does not provide a clear and holistic picture of the implementation process and its challenges.


Blue Economy is contested concept (never done before)

The 2050 AIMS and its Plan of Action are due for review considering the loopholes in its logic and conception, and this should be carried out periodically afterward. Perhaps, the time is now for the “definitional” burden of the Blue Economy be addressed in a reviewed viewed version of the 2050 AIMS. However, we cannot shy away from the fact that concept, no matter how well defined they might be, would still be subjected to contests. From the legal parlance of “essentially contested concepts,” Gallie (1955) already gave us an inkling that a particular use of any concept […] is liable to be contested for reasons they usually carry with them an assumption [… .]. Along this reasoning of an essentially contested concept, we can then borrow a leaf from the grand solution proposed by Waldron (2002) and supported by Collier, Hidalgo, and Maciuceanu (2006) emplacing that, “the rule of law is the solution to a problem we are not sure how to solve.” Therefore, either at national, subregional, or regional level, a legislation which clearly defines the Blue Economy concept should be passed into law. This also implies the need to make the 2050 AIMS legally binding, where states can transpose it into their national legal structure.

Structures to achieve coordination and coherence at national, regional, and AU levels not adequate

Successful implementation of the 2050 AIMS would require strengthening institutions and intensifying efforts toward getting buy-in from governments at national levels. As most countries in Africa already have a national vision and the policy basis for sustainable development, some of them are already thinking of how to incorporate Blue Economy thinking into their national policy (e.g., Nigeria, Kenya, Benin), while some especially the Small Island States are way beyond others. To achieve more coherence and coordination, a cross-cutting logic needs to be reflected in the 2050 AIMS Plan of Action. Few things must be put in place, including:
  1. (a)

    The 2050 AIMS must be legally binding, compelling states to transpose it into their national law just like the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

  2. (b)

    Since the AU is currently the main coordination organ for facilitating the implementation the 2050 AIMS Plan of Action, the principle of subsidiary should be followed in order to galvanize a lot of political will and commitment to effect change at national level. (The principle of subsidiarity indicates that any policy is better achieved at the most immediate level closer to issues (in this case the states).)

  3. (c)

    As the Plan of Action has not provided any indication of how coherence and mainstreaming of the 2050 AIMS would be mapped at the regional/national level, a detailed legal guidance on the mainstreaming of the 2050 AIMS should be developed.


Absence of adequate institutional power and information sharing capacity

Bridging strategy implementation skills gap is critical, as successful strategy implementation depends on people taking the right actions (Speculand 2014). Also, improving the capacity to look ahead is critical as the process of progressive implementation will require capacity to anticipate the potential consequences (Garcia and Prouzet 2009). Therefore, by establishing a dedicated Commission in charge of coordinating and implementing the 2050 AIMS, the power of institutional influence and credibility will facilitate capacity development, as a well-structured institution uniquely positioned to drive change.

Additionally, it is understandable that the process of establishing a standalone institution as recommended in section “Absence of Adequate Institutional Power and Information Sharing Capacity” might take some time. A tentative arrangement could be made whereby the AU will constitute a thematic cross-sectoral regional Blue Economy Committee that will work in tandem with the STF, and chaired by regional coordinator (for example, selected among the Ministers of Environment, Transportation, Ocean Economy, etc. in each region) who will work to champion and increase support for the 2050 AIMS at the national level.

Potential implementation burden rising from disproportionate operational planning

Moving past the implementation burden created by faulty operational planning of project will require a review of the 2050 AIMS Plan of Action. A project is successful when it has met needs of stakeholders. Therefore, during this review process, it is important to allow the needs of stakeholders to guide the identification and design of programs and cooperate to determine the indicators that would be used to evaluate their implementation.

To every action, there must be a reaction. This saying also applies to marine policy implementation, as the policy process creates a demand for action, which in turn requires financing (IMS-UD/UNEP 2015). Therefore, at this stage, a general assessment of financial requirement of implementing the 2050 AIMS at least over the medium-term implementation period should be carried out. For the expected lifetime of the 2050 AIMS, high-level (not too detailed) financial estimates must be prepared showing current and potential sources of funds, the estimated cost of actions and programs presented to implement the strategy at different stages, the monitoring activities, as well as any other resources gap. IMS-UD/UNEP (2015) has succinctly provided a number of recommendations that the handlers on the 2050 AIMS must consider to scale the funding hurdles, which includes adopting innovative approaches such as the Blue Bond and Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES), establish continental-wide special fund for ocean governance, etc.

Lack of knowledge and data

Though at the initial stage of strategy implementation, data seem to be very scare. However, the 2050 AIMS is not in its second implementation cycle, therefore, a semblance of data to champ on should be available. Developing a data strategy can help to overcome the challenges and bring efficiency to the implementation process (Attaran and Attaran 2018). The solution here is to have a 2050 AIMS data strategy that articulates how both input and output data will enable and inspire the strategy. This will include an indication of how data will be collected, managed, shared, and used. Relevant input and output data from similar Africa-wide strategy (e.g., the African Development Bank Strategy for agricultural Transformation in Africa 2016–2025, the AU Continental Agribusiness Strategy Driving Africa’s Growth, and the African Union Strategy on Climate Change) should be retrieved and documented to improve buy-ins for the 2050 AIMS and to enhance coherence in its implementation. For example, in the implementation of the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), the use of existing data, methodologies, and targets from related environmental policies corresponds to the higher levels of coherence among countries, while a limited use of such policies produces less coherence (Cavallo et al. 2016).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.African Marine Environment and Sustainability InitiativeLagosNigeria
  2. 2.World Ocean CouncilHonoluluUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Mirja Mikkilä
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Energy SystemsLappeenranta University of TechnologyLappeenrantaFinland