In 2018, Nairobi hosted the first global Blue Economy Conference that put Kenya in the spotlight concerning the emerging area. Blue economy generally covers economic activities that take place in the ocean. They include coastal tourism and using raw materials from the ocean.
According to statistics from the Commonwealth website, the blue economy has the capacity to contribute approximately $15 trillion per annum globally. Already about 80 per cent of the world’s trade takes place via the ocean through import and export.
The same report states that about 350 million jobs are directly or indirectly linked to the blue economy. Aquaculture, which is increasingly becoming a major source of food, contributes about 50 percent of fish. Other sources of food from the ocean include plant varieties like seaweeds and sea algae.
The ocean also has a great capacity to produce alternative sources of energy. It is estimated in about five years at least 34 percent of the world crude oil will come from the ocean floor. Other sources of energy include tidal (wave energy), thermal energy from the sun and wind energy from the ocean. All these can be further harnessed to complement the existing sources.
The ocean floor also has a lot of minerals including sand, corals, metal and even gas. Indeed, most of the earth’s surface comprises the ocean therefore it has a very huge potential to grow the global economy and address issues such as food security and climate change.
Kenya’s existing blue economy activities include shipping, fishing, and coastal tourism. Coastal tourism has been the main source of income for many residents in the Coastal region and has contributed largely to the growth of coastal towns and counties.
In March 2021, Kenya began the Go Blue Initiative to exploit the potential of ocean resources for national and county growth. About six counties stand to be positively impacted by this initiative.
Kenya has also announced plans to grant some exploration rights in regard to feasibility studies on mining and energy. It is said that the Indian Ocean has a lot of mining and energy potential. Energy produced from the ocean, whether by tidal, thermal or wind, has the potential to add to the national grid and enhance conservation of the land environment.
Africa has a blue economy strategy under the African Union. It is already notable that some countries have already began implementing blue economy activities. Ghana, for example, has initiated wave energy while Mauritius is set on using wind energy from the ocean.
This is why the recent International Court of Justice (ICJ) decision against Kenya in the Kenya-Somali dispute deals the country a huge blow regarding its plans to implement the blue economy strategy.
Kenya has decided to ignore the ruling altogether. From the decision, the disputed territory is about 100,000 square kilometres of a triangle in the Indian Ocean. This decision is likely to affect Kenya’s implementation of the blue economy strategy noting it was already planning to grant some exploration rights.
The Kenya Maritime Zone Act allows for the creation of exclusive economic zones which allow Kenya to explore and exploit the ocean’s potential for the benefit of Kenya.
All is not lost in so far as the blue economy is concerned. We can still explore and exploit the undisputed maritime zone.