As the Caribbean region endeavours to benefit from the global push towards the ‘blue’ economy, the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the Government of Antigua and Barbuda have agreed on the establishment of a Centre for Excellence for Oceanography and the Blue Economy at the UWI Five Islands Campus.
Prime Minister Hon Gaston Browne, UWI Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Hilary Beckles and Chair of the Association of Commonwealth Universities Professor Sir Ed Byrne have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to formalise their collaboration on the Centre.
The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) reports that the Centre “will aim to advance intellectual progress and strengthen institutional capacity in the areas of marine science and the blue economy while benefitting from the societal, economic and environmental opportunities for the Caribbean within this emerging sector.”
The blue economy is defined by the World Bank Group as the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs and ocean ecosystem health. Referring to the emerging industry being worth $2.5 trillion (US), CARICOM indicates the region can benefit “through the sustainable diversification of the economy into areas such as aquaculture, marine renewable energy, biotechnology and sea vegetable farming.”
Speaking at the January 21 signing ceremony, Prime Minister Browne said the UWI Five Islands Campus is an investment in the youth of Antigua and Barbuda and the Eastern Caribbean.
“My Government’s support for this Centre of Excellence for Oceanography and the Blue Economy is predicated on our vision to provide easier access to quality training and new knowledge at a tertiary level for our people. Its realisation will require our collective ingenuity and commitment to identify and secure the necessary resources to advance this important ambition. I therefore invite all present today to partner with us in a tangible and efficacious manner to establish this Centre in short order”.
Sir Hilary said UWI is “an activist university, tackling all of the big challenges facing our region, and committed to serving the development needs of our people.” Noting that UWI has been at the forefront of teaching, research and advocacy on sustainable development and climate action in the Caribbean for many decades, he proudly reported that the institution is now recognised as a “ global leader in the mobilisation of research and advocacy for a climate smart world.”
The UWI Five Islands Campus was established in 2019. Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Densil Williams said the Centre will be a big step in diversifying the economies of the region.
“The traditional sectors of commodities and low value services will not be able to deliver the kind of growth needed to lift more persons out of poverty and allow our citizens to live a decent life,” he warned, suggesting the blue economy “has vast potential to generate mass employment given its proclivity to scale.”
The Association of Commonwealth Universities is recognised as the oldest university network in theworld, and Chair Sir Ed Byrne said the MOU signing“lays the groundwork for the Association of Commonwealth Universities to support success, by convening universities from across the Commonwealth and developing the networks and collaborations which underpin research-led solutions.”