Ocean Economy

Approximately 65 per cent of Kenya’s coastal population lives in rural areas and engage primarily in fisheries, agriculture and mining for their livelihoods. The main economic activities in the coastal region are tourism (45 per cent), maritime activities especially port and shipping (15 per cent), agricultural industry (8 per cent), fisheries (6 per cent), agriculture (5 per cent), forestry (4 per cent), and mining (2 per cent).


Underscoring how much the Blue Economy has become a priority for Kenya, the government hosted the first-ever global ‘Sustainable Blue Economy’ conference on 26 to 28 November 2018 with Japan and Canada. Over 16,000 participants from 184 countries attended the conference, which resulted in the Nairobi Statement of Intent on Advancing a Sustainable Blue Economy. Key political messages in the statement included the need to mobilize financing for the Blue Economy; create Blue Economy and people-centered strategies on sustainable development; promote access to gender equality; and strengthen science and research, among others. During this conference, participants made voluntary commitments amounting to $172.2 million in various aspects of the Blue Economy, as well as several non-monetary commitments in areas like partnerships and capacity-building.

Fisheries: Small-scale fisheries employ 12,000 people and supply 95% of the country’s total marine catch, generating an estimated US$ 3.2 million per year[1].

The 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is believed to have vast fishery resources that are under-exploited. It has the estimated potential to produce between 150,000 to 300,000 metric tonnes per year of fish. However, this potential has yet to be realized, as a lack of gear prevents fisherman from venturing into the EEZ.

According to Munguti, Kim, & Ogello, 2014[2] glaring opportunities in the Kenyan aquaculture industry include the production of live fish food, e.g., Artemia, daphnia and rotifers, marine fish and shellfish larviculture; seaweed farming; cage culture; integrated fish farming; culture of indigenous fish species; and investment in the fish feed industry.


Coastal Tourism: The major tourism attractions are beautiful sand beaches, wildlife, historical sites and local culture. Coastal tourism is estimated to account for 60% of the total revenues generated by the tourism sector.


Oil and Mining: The only mining activities ongoing is limestone mining and there is minimal scale extraction of coral blocks. There is increased seismic surveys for offshore prospecting for oil, gas and coal deposits.


Ports and Harbors: Kenya has only one main port located in Mombasa. A number of smaller ports exist in Lamu, Malindi, Kilifi and Shimoni. It is estimated that at any given time, there are 50 ships passing along the major shipping lanes off the Kenyan coast, approximately 9 of which are oil tankers with capacities ranging from 50000 to 250 000 tons[3].


Marine Spatial Planning / Integrated Coastal Zone Management: Kenya has an integrated coastal zone management policy paper outlining the framework intended to guide actions and policies related to the use and management of Kenya’s coastal zone resources, including their protection and restoration. Kenya has also embarked on the process of developing Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) with World Bank support as an approach/strategy to guide maritime resource use for blue economic development. It has submitted a demonstration project proposal to the Nairobi Convention (under its SAPPHIRE project), which is intended to build capacity and review of existing policies and laws that support the implementation of the planned MSP initiative.

[1] Mombasa County Government: First County Integrated Development Plan 2013 – 2017

[2]  ) An Overview of Kenyan Aquaculture: Current Status, Challenges, and Opportunities for Future Development. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/262224593_An_Overview_of_Kenyan_Aquaculture_Current_Status_Challenges_and_Opportunities_for_Future_Development [accessed Nov 25 2019].


[3] (Government of Kenya – National Environment Management Authority, 2007)