Kenya has received a major boost in harnessing its blue economy resources after the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) committed itself to work with the government in the next three years to come with better ways to exploit the maritime sector.
During that period, Kenya is expected to complete its blue economy strategy which will detail how the country will exploit its untapped marine resources both in the inland and offshore waters.
Sweden's government is supporting IGAD with a funding of $5 million for three years to improve the governance of the blue economy in Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia and Sudan.
The funds will also be used to conduct marine biodiversity situation analyses, make an inventory of chemical and plastic pollutants from source to sea, develop and apply tools to monitor and mitigate chemical and plastic pollutions in the coastal member states.
Speaking on behalf of IGAD's executive secretary Dr Workneh Gebeyuh, the programme manager for environment and coordinator of the blue economy Eahete Dejen lauded Kenya saying it is way ahead in developing its marine strategy, which will help harness the country’s optimal capacity to exploit its untapped resources along the Coast and its inland waters.
However, IGAD officials lamented over challenges affecting the blue economy including lack of specialised manpower, governance and awareness. Mr Dejen said there is not enough manpower trained to think in a multi-disciplinary environment.
“There are different sectors in the blue economy so the institutional arrangement is a challenge because it’s a new sector. For instance in Kenya it’s under the Ministry of Agriculture, when you go to Somalia it’s under the office of the President,” he added.
Last week, policymakers in the maritime sector met in Mombasa to validate the 2020 National Baseline Blue Economy Assessment report. The report was first validated through a zoom meeting at the height of the pandemic.
“But we are now meeting physically to validate it by inviting 10 stakeholders in the sector including aquaculture, maritime, tourism, fishing, Coast Guards among others. We want to know the status of the blue economy in Kenya and the missing data,” he said.
IGAD said the development of the Blue Economy Strategy, which Kenya is working on, will enable the country to tackle challenges preventing realisation of the sector’s huge potential.
Statistics from the government show Kenya has a deficit of 314,000 metric tonnes of fish production despite having enormous natural water bodies.
Kenya’s potential in fisheries and aquaculture is 450,000 metric tonnes annually but only produces about 150,128 tonnes.
Mr Dejen said Kenya is the first country to organise an international blue economy conference in November 2018.
“Blue economy is still a relatively new concept, that is why it is still widely misunderstood. We are trying to create awareness on its contribution to the national economy,” he added.
Mr Dejen said the assessment will help IGAD to develop a national blue economy strategy.
“This process is the same for all the seven IGAD member states. We did for Djibouti and now it's Kenya, next week it's Somalia,” he added.
Mr Dejen urged IGAD member states to ensure they deal with conflicts emerging from the use of the blue economy sectors.
“If you use it for transport you have to ensure you don’t destroy fish breeding grounds,” he added.
He urged IGAD member states to emulate island states like Seychelles and Mauritius whose blue economies are thriving. He said Sweden and Norway “have the best experiences in the blue economy”.
In a statement, Dr Gebeyuh said IGAD countries’ blue economy is underused.
“Traditional sectors such as fisheries, tourism, mineral extraction and marine and river transport are showing evidence of significant development capacities while emerging sectors such as aquaculture, marine biotechnology and bioprospecting, desalinisation and renewable energy are currently lacking attention and need substantial investments immediately,” said Dr Gebeyuh.
Kenya organised the first International Conference on the blue economy in November 2018, and wWater pollution was mentioned as a very serious threat to sustainable, and balanced socio-economic growth and environmental protection in the IGAD region.
“Coastal and marine pollution is a major concern. IGAD has a very productive and diverse coastal and marine environment region (the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean) that stretches from the coast of Sudan down to Mombasa in Kenya,” said Dr Gebeyuh.
“The coastal population in the IGAD region has been increasing exponentially. This has created immense pressure on the coastal and marine environment, which has resulted in the depletion and pollution of biodiversity.”