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Gabon Restructures Portion of Debt to Finance Ocean Protection

Gabon has converted $163 million, a third of its debt, into funds to protect its oceans, US-based NGO The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the Government of the central African country said Tuesday August 15.

The swap operation marks “the start of a 15-year conservation project… to help Gabon finance ocean protection and management for 30 percent of its ocean,” TNC noted.

“For years we’ve been talking about green financing… But there has been little action”, Water and Forestry Minister Lee White told AFP. “We hope this… small step … will lead the way to new conservations,” he said.

The African country’s beaches and coastal waters are reportedly home to the world’s largest population of endangered leatherback turtles, critically endangered Atlantic humpback dolphins, and one of the largest olive ridley turtle nesting sites in the Atlantic.

The funds will be used to refinance $500 million of national debt, a move expected to secure funding for marine conservation activities and a clampdown on illegal fishing.

TNC said the deal involved the Bank of America that issued a new bond that is insured against political risk by the United States’ International Development Finance Corporation.

“Our Blue Bonds program (helps) governments reach conservation and climate goals while also supporting the well-being of their people and economies”, explained CEO Jennifer Morris. The converted debt will also help the African country improve the management of its territorial waters, 26 percent of which are currently earmarked as protected, and make its fishing industry more sustainable.

Source: The North Africa Post