The BCC countries have put in place similar inter-ministerial and cross-sectoral mechanisms within their governments to enable the introduction of ecosystem-based Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) and the preparation of their first marine plans. Lead ministries/departments for MSP work closely with other relevant ministries/departments and government agencies through formally established National Working Groups (NWGs) to deal with multiple spatial claims in an integrated way.

At BCC level, two Regional Working Groups (RWGs) have been established (one on MSP and the other on Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas, EBSAs) to support the initiation of MSP at national levels by enabling the exchange of the growing experiences and knowledge on MSP across the three countries. The idea of learning from and with each other at the early stages of the national-level MSP processes has not only enabled intra-regional capacity development but also contributed to similar approaches across the countries.


The EBSA RWG has ensured a coordinated and coherent approach to the identification and management of the region’s most valuable marine sites. This has led to 12 new described EBSAs and 16 updated EBSA descriptions. These EBSAs were then politically approved at the national, ministerial level for submission to the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2020 (Namibia and South Africa) and 2021 (Angola) – making the countries among the first worldwide to have submitted new/updated EBSAs.

In terms of MSP, all countries have divided their marine area into several distinct planning areas based on human uses and ecological boundaries. The countries have compiled strategic elements for their national MSP processes. The respective frameworks provide high-level guidance for the preparation and approval of marine plans as well as their implementation, monitoring and review.

Sound knowledge and evidence baselines were developed. These knowledge baseline reports are assessment reports that outline the current conditions and human uses, likely future developments, and the issues which MSP, and particularly the marine spatial plans need to (and can) solve.

© Harris et al., 2022

Based on the baseline reports marine plans have since been developed in the countries. While South Africa has already established a legal framework for MSP, Namibia and Angola are in the process of legislating for MSP. In all three countries, national policies (Blue Economy policy in Namibia), strategies (Ocean Strategy in Angola), or initiatives (Operation Phakisa in South Africa) provide the framing for MSP in the context of sustainable ocean development agendas.

Plan implementation guidelines and monitoring and evaluation strategies have been developed to better direct users in implementing the plans.

A regional MSP strategy has been developed and adopted at the level of BCC in 2018. The strategy is advisory in nature and aims at facilitating a coherent and consistent approach to MSP across the three countries. The strategy suggests common elements of MSP processes that all three countries should consider when implementing MSP, for example stakeholder engagement or a plan review period of 7–10 years.

Future priorities are the development of further marine spatial plans, the legislation of MSP and plan implementation.