- As a coastal and lake-rich nation, Kenya is ideally positioned to benefit from the development of its blue economy, which includes freshwater and marine fishing and traffic, and tourism.
- At the same time, the oceans absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide and are an important carbon sink that dampens global warming. Oceans are also a source of various forms of renewable energy that could be of immense value to the Kenyan economy.
- In November 2018, Kenya hosted the first international Sustainable Blue Economy Conference in Nairobi, at which $ 172.2 billion was pledged for the sustainable development of the global blue economy.
As a coastal and lake-rich nation, Kenya is ideally positioned to benefit from the development of its blue economy, which includes freshwater and marine fishing and traffic, and tourism.
At the same time, the oceans absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide and are an important carbon sink that dampens global warming. Oceans are also a source of various forms of renewable energy that could be of immense value to the Kenyan economy.
In November 2018, Kenya hosted the first international Sustainable Blue Economy Conference in Nairobi, where $ 172.2 billion was pledged for the sustainable development of the global blue economy.
To promote understanding and integration of the concept into national planning, the Kenyan government has set up the Blue Economy Implementation Committee, made up of the Chief Secretaries of the Fisheries, Maritime and Shipping Affairs Departments, National Treasury; Transport and Environment chaired the Kenya Defense Force.
To take advantage of the blue economy, an integrated approach is required that brings together science, research, technology and many disciplines to identify interactions and potential synergies between their various components. Kenya needs to develop an effective strategy to accomplish this, but it faces a number of obstacles.
Kenya must first strengthen its water and land use expertise in order to assess and monitor water pollution, an area critical in this regard. The country does not have the required number of agricultural advisors to advise farmers on the minimal use of fertilizers and pesticides that pollute our rivers and lakes.
A blatant consequence of this pollution is the disappearance of flamingos from Lake Nakuru. Kenya also lacks expertise in maritime technology and infrastructure.
Financial support and partnerships between businesses, governments, donors, non-governmental organizations, foundations and other stakeholders are essential for the development of the country’s blue economy. Kenya lacks the resources to address all of the priorities highlighted in its 2030 Vision and the President’s Big Four agenda.
We should use the resources pledged at the 2018 conference and work out a national plan for our blue economy with a realistic budget to attract both local and external funding.
The development of our blue economy requires further research and innovation, especially regarding its offshore and maritime components. However, research is not considered a national priority in Kenya and does not receive the necessary financial support.
Even when funds are available for blue research, they are distributed among ministries, departments, institutions and district governments.
For the sustainable development of Kenya’s blue economy, the government should focus on bundling its various activities into a single administrative unit in order to implement the recommendations of the 2018 Nairobi Declaration on a Sustainable Blue Economy with the following steps.
The first step must be to train a critical mass of staff in key sectors of the blue economy. The European Union has invested in training young cadres from its member states to modernize and expand the maritime sectors of their respective blue economies.
Kenya should take a similar approach. Colleges and universities should develop blue curricula and citizen science should be encouraged.
The second important step is to focus on adding value to existing Blue Economy activities. As endorsed by the conference and illustrated by Seychelles, where citizens are encouraged to share their knowledge and expertise in order to generate income and add value to tourism.
South Africa has followed a similar strategy known as Operation Phakisa, which prioritizes maritime skills and training to foster partnerships and attract private international investors.
Third, existing craft activities related to the blue economy in local communities need to be supported and expanded. For example, fishermen in Lake Turkana, Lake Victoria and along the coast should be given incentives to improve fish storage through the use of solar-powered freezers and freezers to reduce post-harvest losses.
Fourth, fish processing plants need to be built in strategic locations. The local processing of the fish catch minimizes post-harvest losses, increases the value of the products and creates jobs. District and state governments should work with donors to fund such initiatives.
Fifth, deep-sea fishing should be encouraged. This will be challenging as it will require much larger and more sophisticated boats to exploit deep-sea fishing.
With the current ban on foreign vessels in Kenyan waters, the local fish processing capacity is to be increased from 2,500 to 18,000 tons per year. The Coast Guard also needs to be strengthened to protect local fishermen and encourage them to venture into deeper waters.
And sixth, other offshore blue activities should be adequately supported and protected. Corporations should work closely with the Kenyan Navy to protect their offshore assets and activities, including planned mineral exploration.
Government should partner with oil and gas companies wishing to invest in offshore activities, taking due account of their potential environmental risks.