22 June, 9:00 – 18:00h, World Trade Center, Barcelona – The UfM Blue Finance Conference took place on the 22nd of June, 2022, at World Trade Center in Barcelona.
The goal of the Conference was to encourage investments in- and funding of- Sustainable Blue Economy projects and initiatives in the Mediterranean region, especially in the Southern countries. We brought together financial institutions, banks (multilateral and national), private investors and UfM country and industry representatives to exchange information on funding, discuss criteria and viability of projects/initiatives and the enablers and conditions, which may help attract investments.
The Conference was structured around two main sessions on access to finance, including opportunities and modalities for investments in blue economy sectors (EU funding, national and local funding and Private investments) as well as enabling conditions and examples/best practices currently in place and matchmaking sessions between the countries and the Banks/Financial institutions, booked and planned so that the participants could present concrete project proposals and discuss/receive in situ feedback as well as plan ahead their viability.
Financed by DG MARE and chaired by the UfM EU and Jordan Co-Presidency in close collaboration with the UfM Secretariat, the main points and recommendations emerging from the Conference can be summarised as follows:
- The Conference is part of a longer-term process structured around the Roadmap for the implementation of the 2021 UfM Ministerial Conference on Sustainable Blue Economy, adopted by the 42 UfM countries. Based on the conclusions and recommendations agreed, next steps will be defined.
- It is also aligned with the EU’s green/blue goals as well as its commitment to supporting its Southern Neighbours as reflected in the New Agenda for the Mediterranean and the New Approach to a Sustainable Blue Economy.
- The Conference presented a wide range of already active opportunities for investments in sustainable blue economy including financial packages, guarantees, financial networking tools and accelerators, which need to be put in full motion/upscaled at regional level and necessarily associated to the urgent need not only to preserve but to restore our oceans and ecosystems.
- Matchmaking sessions between banks and project promoters proved to be very useful. However, as the request for bilateral meetings could not be fully satisfied, the UfM Co-Presidency and Secretariat are looking into the possibility to ensure a follow-up and facilitate dialogue. (The specific modality is still to be assessed).
- The Conference highlighted the need to facilitate communication between the financial institutions and project promoters in the form of a “common language”, currently lacking. This need could be satisfied through technical assistance and dedicated capacity building activities, at regional or national level, to be defined more in detail.
- There is strong collaboration around blue economy priorities at regional level. The Conference emphasized the need for these priorities to be met with corresponding sustainable, innovative financing, along the lines of the UN Decade for Action and the specific UN Ocean Conference.
- Examples of successful enabling conditions have been presented; these included creating national blue funds, developing maritime strategies (especially in southern Mediterranean countries), sharing of knowledge and best practices and targeted capacity building/technical assistance, which might help mobilize and streamline financing.
- Overall, women and youth involvement and empowerment remain a crucial issue to be mainstreamed in all the blue economy related work and will keep on being in the focus, within the ongoing work on blue skills, careers and jobs and beyond.
- Within the overall dialogue with key financial actors, the participation of national and local banks has been considered a highly valuable asset, to be further expanded in the future, as part of the already existing Blue Economy network/community.
- Financial support for feasibility and prefeasibility studies is essential.
- The creation of regional and national funds dedicated to sustainable blue economy needs immediate follow-up.
- New actors joined this important event, thus the Med Blue Economy Community is expanding.
Key initiatives in the making:
- BlueInvest Africa 2022 will take place in the Seychelles on 7-8 September as a hybrid event. It will aim to showcase Africa’s potential on sustainable blue economy; foster innovation, sustainability, and entrepreneurship; and promote public-private cooperation. It has a continental scope, and will consist of pitching sessions, B2B meetings, an exhibition showcasing small-scale African projects, and opportunities for networking between participants and potential future partners. Attendance by entrepreneurs from the Med region is welcome and encouraged.
- EIF: A Mediterranean Investment Platform. Based on the good experience of Portugal Blue, the EIF intends to extend/replicate the fund at regional level on the Mediterranean. They are looking for a number of “champion” EU Member States (MSs). Although funding will go to MSs SMEs, these can have projects and initiatives in non-EU countries and may partner with non-EU countries.
- EBRD & EIB: BE Partnership for the Med Sea. EBRD and EIB with support from the UfM and with possible support also from KfW are evaluating a proposal to build on the successful experience of the NDEP in the Baltic Sea and Western Balkan Investment Facility to launch a similar partnership in the Med. Support is being gathered from MSs (e.dg. ES, SE, FR, DE, IT). The focus will be mainly on Southern and Eastern Mediterranean countries with a possible inclusion of Turkey. Proposal for a possible announcement of the initiative in November at COP27 in Egypt.