Blue sky, Blue waters, Blue economy – SANBio/BioFISA II team visited Seychelles

Nature Seychelles

Seychelles is a beautiful country – that can hardly be denied. Surrounded by crystal clear waters, with mountains and hills towering almost overhead as you walk on the beaches, you cannot help but be impressed by your surroundings. The country is, however, very small even though it comprises more than 116 gorgeous islands.

However, this is not a travel blog or advertisement – instead, we will focus on other exciting things more relevant to what NEPAD-SANBio is all about.

The SANBio/BioFISA II team visited Seychelles on 24-29 April 2016 to meet stakeholders and map recent and expected developments in the country’s biosciences field and economy. During the visit the delegation met with stakeholders such as NISTI (National Institute for Science, Technology and Innovation), University of Seychelles, IEA (Industrial Estates Authority), MIEDBI (Ministry of Investment, Entrepreneurship Development and Business Innovation), SCCI (Seychelles Chamber of Commerce & Industry), SFA (Seychelles Fishing Authority) and Nature Seychelles. 

Many efforts are being undertaken aimed at preserving the rare and endangered species of plants and animals that are only found within the archipelago. Even on the flight there the airline displayed an information video for visitors on what is being done and what visitors should avoid doing to ensure on their part that the island remains beautiful and its biodiversity intact. The extraordinary biodiversity in Seychelles has even seen the Mahe government declaring approximately 50 per cent of land territory as protected and an aim is also in place to do the same for 30 per cent of Seychelles’ marine area.

The economy of Seychelles is largely (but naturally solely) based on fishing and fish processing, tourism, and various agricultural products. Several planned projects were introduced to our team, including ones related to cassava, moringa, coconuts, fish and even coral. Nature Seychelles, for example, is highly involved in preserving the archipelagos coral reefs and is looking at ways of sustainably benefiting from them.

The Seychelles government has importantly put in place plans to further develop and utilize a Blue Economy approach in the coming years as its future sustainable development model. Blue economy is an idea originally coined in 2010 by Gunter Pauli, also taken up by several other countries in the Indian Ocean Rim Association. In a previous interview two years back, Dr Nirmal Shah from Nature Seychelles, who we met while visiting Seychelles, elucidated that the blue economy model looks at the sea with what appears to be a holistic view: “We know what the blue economy is not. It is not business as usual. It is not the current fishing patterns and practices. It is not distant fishing fleets from Europe coming to our waters. It cannot be a new brand for the old. It must be a new brand for the new economy that benefits locals as well as the world at large.”

In their new STI policy Seychelles is also emphasizing the importance of Small, Medium and Micro-sized Enterprises (SMMEs) to the country’s economy as well as addressing issues in scaling up – which are relatively significant owing to the country’s small size hindering efforts to exploit economies of scale; hence focus will likely be in reinforcing the country’s emphasis on developing and exploiting their Made in Seychelles brand. The Blue Economy model, however, once fully developed and utilized, will no doubt create numerous opportunities for biosciences related interventions and entrepreneurship.

SANBio is looking forward to increasing its collaboration and interactions with Seychelles and developing new targeted interventions to aid Seychelles in expanding its activities in the biosciences field.