Ideas & Debate

How to overcome Kenya’s blue economy obstacles

uhuru-blue

President Uhuru Kenyatta addresses delegates during the 2018 Blue Economy Governors & Mayors convention in Nairobi. PHOTO | POOL

Kakonge

Summary

  • As a coastal and lake-rich nation, Kenya is ideally placed to benefit from development of its blue economy, which includes fresh water and marine fisheries and transport, and tourism.
  • At the same time, oceans absorb vast quantities of carbon dioxide and are a major carbon sink that moderates 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 were pledged for the sustainable development of the global blue economy.

As a coastal and lake-rich nation, Kenya is ideally placed to benefit from development of its blue economy, which includes fresh water and marine fisheries and transport, and tourism.

At the same time, oceans absorb vast quantities of carbon dioxide and are a major carbon sink that moderates 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 were pledged for the sustainable development of the global blue economy.

To promote understanding and integration of the concept in national planning, the government of Kenya established the Blue Economy Implementation Committee, composed of the Principal Secretaries of the Departments of Fisheries, Maritime and Shipping Affairs, National Treasury; Transport, and Environment, chaired by the Kenya Defence Force.

To harness the assets of the blue economy, an integrated approach is required, bringing together science, research, technology, and many disciplines to identify interactions and potential synergies between its various components. Kenya needs to develop an effective strategy to his end, but has a number of obstacles to surmount.

First of all, Kenya needs to strengthen its expertise in the water and land-use sectors to assess and monitor water pollution, a critical area in this regard. The country does not have the necessary numbers of agricultural extension workers to advise farmers on the minimal use of fertilisers and pesticides that pollute our rivers and lakes.

A glaring 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 among business, governments, donors, non-governmental organisations, foundations and other stakeholders are essential for the country to develop its blue economy. Kenya lacks the funds to address all the priorities highlighted in its Vision 2030 and President’s Big Four Agenda.

We should capitalise on the resources pledged at the 2018 Conference and devise a national plan for our blue economy, with a realistic budget, to attract both local and external funding.

Development of our blue economy requires further research and innovation, especially relating to its coastal and maritime components. Research is not seen as a national priority in Kenya, however, and does not receive the financial support it needs.

Even where funding is available for blue research, it is fragmented across ministries, departments, institutions, and county governments.

For the sustainable development of Kenya’s blue economy, the government should focus on consolidating its various activities within a single administrative entity 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 personnel in key sectors of the blue economy. The European Union has invested in the education of young cadres of its member states to modernise and expand the maritime sector of their respective blue economies.

Kenya should adopt a similar approach. Colleges and universities should develop blue education curricula and citizen science should be promoted.

The second vital step is to focus on adding value to existing blue economy activities. As advocated by the conference and exemplified by the Seychelles, where citizens are encouraged to share their knowledge and expertise to generate income and add value to tourism.

South Africa has adopted a similar strategy known as “Operation Phakisa,” which prioritises maritime skills and education to promote partnerships and attract international private investors.

Third, existing artisanal activities related to the blue economy in local communities must be supported and scaled up. For example, fishers on Lake Turkana, Lake Victoria and along the coast should be incentivised to improve fish storage, with the use of solar-powered refrigeration and deep freezers to reduce post-harvest losses.

Fourth, fish-processing plants must be built at strategic locations. Local processing of fish catches minimises post-harvest losses, adds value to products and creates jobs. County and national governments should engage with donors to fund such initiatives.

Fifth, deep-ocean fishing should be promoted. This will pose a challenge because much larger and more sophisticate boats are required to exploit deep-sea fisheries.

With the current ban on foreign vessels in Kenyan waters, local fish-processing capacity should increase from 2,500 to 18,000 tonnes a year. The coast guard services also needs to be strengthened to protect and encourage local fishers to venture into deeper waters.

And sixth, other offshore blue activities should be properly supported and protected. Businesses should work closely with the Kenya Navy to protect their offshore assets and activities, including proposed mineral exploration.

The government should establish partnerships with oil and gas companies wishing to invest in offshore activities, while giving due consideration to their potential environmental risks.