Kenya is one of the African countries that recognizes the blue economy as a new frontier for socio-economic development. The Blue Economy (BE) involves the development and management of coastal and marine resources in a sustainable way, providing opportunities for economic growth in sectors such as tourism, shipping, and fisheries, among others. The value of the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region’s maritime sector assets is currently estimated at US$333.8 billion.
In recognition of the importance of the blue economy, Kenya has established the State Department for Fisheries and the Blue Economy and the Blue Economy Implementation Steering Committee. Recently, an assessment of Kenya’s maritime sectors was carried out to inform the development of a national blue economy strategy. A workshop attended by representatives from different blue economy sectors, coastal and marine experts, academic institutions, and government representatives was organized on 22 – 23 March 2023, with the goal of presenting key findings and recommendations of the assessment to key stakeholders.
The workshop highlighted the importance of the blue economy discussion and its potential to contribute to Kenya’s GDP and provide food and nutritional security. However, challenges such as weak institutional frameworks and coordination, lack of financial resources, and lack of quality data on issues affecting communities that rely on blue economy resources were identified. Governor Issa Abdallah emphasized the “need for better ocean governance informed by existing research and data to generate investment possibilities and help local communities while safeguarding the environment.”
Speaking at the workshop, the Director of Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI), Prof. James Njiru, noted that “Kenya’s involvement in Blue economy-enhancing activities like hosting the first global conference on the sustainable blue economy in 2018, co-hosting the Lisbon UN Oceans Conference in June 2022, demonstrates the Country’s zeal to further its Blue Economy.”
The marine and coastal experts who worked on sectoral reports for Kenya’s Blue Economy presented their findings and recommendations at the workshop. The key policy considerations from the reports included implementing comprehensive ocean governance, using existing research and data, and enhancing market accessibility.
The presentation by Mr. Peter Kanyi and Ms. Njoki Mboche focused on the contribution of ports, harbours, and maritime transport to Kenya’s economy, including challenges faced and recommendations for improvement. Dr. John Nyakawa presented on coastal agriculture, highlighting its contribution to the GDP, challenges, and opportunities in the sector, while Prof Richard Mulwa presented on coastal and marine tourism, which accounts for 8.2% of Kenya’s GDP, and highlighted potential sub-sectors such as cruiseship and water sports tourism, cultural/heritage tourism, and tourist expeditions. Dr Constance Gikonyo presented on the fisheries and aquaculture sector, highlighting the sector’s importance in food security and livelihoods, as well as the need for sustainable management of resources.
The University of Nairobi’s Vice Chancellor, Prof. Stephen G. Kiama, expressed confidence that the assessment of Kenya’s maritime sector will support the government’s ongoing efforts to develop the national blue economy strategy. Mr. Dixon Waruinge, Head of Nairobi Convention Secretariat, urged the workshop to define the economic value of the sectors in Kenya to create wealth and jobs for Kenyans sustainably.
Mr. Rashid Imam, Coast Regional Coordinator, Fisheries and Blue Economy, appreciated the efforts of the institutions involved in the assessment for contributing to the National Blue Economy Strategy and emphasized the government’s commitment to developing an inclusive strategy supported by institutions to achieve its objectives both at the policy level and for the benefit of the communities.
The assessment contributes to developing a National Blue Economy Strategy aligned with other development blueprints and commitments, including Kenya Vision 2030, the National Fisheries and Oceans Policy, and other international commitments such as the SDGs and the AU Agenda 2063. The workshop enhanced the understanding of Kenya’s blue economy sectors, promoted stakeholder engagement, and discussed the process replication in other Western Indian Ocean region countries.
The University of Nairobi Maritime Center was supported by the SAPPHIRE and SWIOFC/Nairobi Convention Partnership projects to develop a series of sector reports and a draft Synthesis Report An assessment of the status of blue economy sectors in Kenya.