Photo: Ocean wave. Credit: - Photo: 2018

Blue Economy Conference: Kenya Keen to Stimulate Global Conversations and Partnerships

By Jaya Ramachandran

NEW YORK | NAIROBI (IDN) – The first ever Sustainable Blue Economy Conference (SBEC) opens on November 26 in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. Canada and Japan are co-hosts of the three-day landmark event.

It builds on the momentum of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development comprising 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the 2015 Climate Change Conference in Paris and the UN Ocean Conference 2017 ‘Call for Action’.

Kenya proudly calls the Conference its ‘Global First’.

What has prompted President Uhuru Kenyatta to take the lead in hosting this conference? Why are Japan and Canada acting as co-hosts? How will the conference contribute to the global agenda for sustainable development and Africa’s Agenda 2063?

A senior Kenyan official, Prof Micheni Japhet Ntiba, Principal Secretary for the State Department for Fisheries, Aquaculture and the Blue Economy, has answered these and related questions.

The significance of the forthcoming SBEC is highlighted by SDG 14: Oceans cover three quarters of the Earth’s surface, contain 97 per cent of the Earth’s water, and represent 99 per cent of the living space on the planet by volume.

Over three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods. Globally, the market value of marine and coastal resources and industries is estimated at $3 trillion per year or about 5 per cent of global GDP.

Oceans contain nearly 200,000 identified species, but actual numbers may lie in the millions. Oceans absorb about 30 per cent of carbon dioxide produced by humans, buffering the impacts of global warming.

Oceans serve as the world’s largest source of protein, with more than 3 billion people depending on the oceans as their primary source of protein. Marine fisheries directly or indirectly employ over 200 million people.

Kenya’s long term national policy objective is the desire to achieve a strong and sustainable economic growth and provide a high quality of life for all citizens by the year 2030, when all SDGs should have been realised.

To this end, one of Kenya’s national priorities is to focus on the Blue Economy as the new foundation that will complement the more familiar reliance on the ‘Green Economy’. This objective is also very much in-line with the national commitment to the African Union Agenda 2063, and SDGs on the whole, says Ntiba.

Agenda 2063 envisions “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in international arena”. This vision envisages a prosperous Africa that is based on inclusive growth and sustainable development; a much more integrated continent that is politically united and driven by the ideals of Pan Africanism and the vision of Africa’s Renaissance. These aspirations, include the ideals enunciated in the Blue Economy.

According to Ntiba, Kenya’s success in hosting the sixth session of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) that took place for the first time on African soil, in Nairobi in August 2016, “boosted our confidence”. The leadership Kenya demonstrated, encouraged the country to offer to host the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference and, particularly, to lead Africa in this regard.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, 29 African Heads of State and Government, six African vice-presidents and vice-prime ministers and a large number of other international dignitaries totalling well over 7,000 in number, attended the conference.

During TICAD VI, says Ntiba, a Blue Economy Side Event was organized by the State Department of Fisheries and the Blue Economy, assisted by the State Department of Shipping and Maritime Affairs, which attracted high level participation by ministers from African countries and other high ranking officials from Government, development partners, Intergovernmental and Non-Governmental Organizations, public and private sector institutions as well as financial institutions.

On that occasion, there was a near-unanimous recognition that Blue Economy was the new frontier for Africa’s sustainable development and economic growth. TICAD VI itself culminated in the ‘Nairobi Declaration’ that, among others, aims at advancing the Blue Economy Agenda.

In remarks at the closing session of the TICAD Ministerial Meeting on October 7, 2018 in Tokyo, Foreign Minister by Taro Kono said: “…we reaffirmed that economic diversification and value addition are necessary for sustainable development. …<We also reiterated the importance of enhancing the blue economy in tandem with promoting maritime security and the rule of law.”

Explaining Canada’s decision to co-host the SBEC, Ntiba said, the two countries’ leaders have “consulted widely” on the Blue Economy subject, including on the margins of the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) meeting in London, where they reached an agreement for Kenya and Canada to partner on the Blue Economy and find ways of harnessing ocean resources to support economic growth.

“When you break down the ‘Blue Economy’ to its logical end, you will realize that it all boils down to the Kenyan President’s ‘Big Four’ legacy agenda,” says Ntiba. The four pillars of the agenda are: universal healthcare, food security, manufacturing and affordable housing,

In terms of manufacturing for instance, there is a rather huge scope in harnessing new technologies and other science-based ideas, including investments in engineering in order to tap fully into the opportunities that are directly associated with the Blue Economy, Ntiba argues.

The opportunities include shipping, transportation and the entirety of international sea trade. Maritime Transport creates numerous job opportunities in ship building and repairs, vessel registration, seafaring, port operations, insurance, shore based auxiliary support and financial services that Kenya has hardly tapped into.

Fisheries is a major component that contributes to global food and nutritional security. The marine fisheries sector alone contributes a whopping $270 billion to the global GDP annually. Kenya is looking forward to increasing its own share of this phenomenal global returns which is currently quite low.

The World Bank has estimated that the Blue Economy contributes about $1.5 trillion per annum (3 per cent of global GDP) and creates approximately 350 million jobs in fishing, aquaculture, coastal and marine tourism as well as research activities.

Out of this the Western Indian Ocean countries account for an estimated U$22 billion, and Kenya’s share is only 20 per cent; mainly coming from tourism. “It means there is much room to realize the full benefits of the Blue Economy from the other sectors,” notes Ntiba.

“In overall terms, the Blue Economy conference we are talking about is predicated on the two pillars of ‘sustainability’ and ‘productivity’,” says Ntiba. He believes that the global conversations and partnerships that will be triggered during and well after the conference shall be life-changing for many countries, “and I can say in no uncertain terms that our potential with the Big Four Agenda shall be greatly enhanced, leading to improved livelihoods that are essentially the central concern therein.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 24 November 2018]

Related IDN articles:
Small Island Developing States Reiterate Commitment to Sustainable Development
Blue Economy Key to Small Islands’ Survival & Prosperity
Seychelles and 79-Nation ACP Secretariat to Focus on ‘Blue Economy’ at the UN
ACP Group Striving for Interrelated Sustainable Development

Photo: Ocean wave. Credit:

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

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