For years, it was believed that environmental degradation – destroyed habitats, extinction of species, pollution, etc. – were an inevitable consequence of economic growth. But a newer concept, known as the Blue Economy – or the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic livelihoods and jobs, and ecosystem health – challenges the notion that socio-economic development has to come at the price of environmental degradation. Rather, by capitalizing on the potential of sectors like fisheries, tourism, renewable energy, marine transport, etc. in a sustainable manner, Kenya and other countries can not only quicken their economic growth, but also protect ocean ecosystems, bolster food security, improve human health, and more.
But to truly unlock this potential in Kenya, a better understanding of these maritime sectors’ current contributions, value, and potential is necessary. For this reason, the University of Nairobi Maritime Center, supported by the Nairobi Convention’s SAPPHIRE and SWIOFC/Nairobi Convention Partnership projects, has created a series of sector reports and a draft Synthesis Report An assessment of the status of blue economy sectors in Kenya.
The drafts and the findings on maritime sectors were discussed at a writers’ workshop on 2-4 August. Fisheries activities, for instance, have grown nearly 40% in just three years (from 34.9 billion in 2016 to Ksh. 48.82 billion in 2019). Fish stocks represent an important source of livelihood to the coastal communities dependent on this sector for food and income, with approximately 27,000 Kenyans engaged in fishing and related activities.
Another important sector for Kenya´s economic development is the tourism industry, which accounted for 8.2% of total gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019 and employs about 1.1 million people. Moreover, coastal tourism is the largest Blue Economy sector, accounting for about 65% of the total Blue Economy contribution to GDP. Yet this represents only a fraction of the potential of coastal tourism in Kenya, experts argued in the report and workshop.
During the meeting, experts and researchers also took account of the total revenues from ports, harbours and marine transport, which has increased over the years. Measures to promote port development, efficiency and logistics will be necessary to keep increasing the contribution to Kenya´s economy, according to the researchers. Other sectors that were analyzed as key contributors to Kenya´s blue economy included coastal and offshore oil and gas and renewable energy; coastal agriculture; coastal and marine forestry and offshore coastal mining and extractives.
The reports also analyze the policy, legal and institutional frameworks needed to develop these sectors, as a solid governance infrastructure will be the basis for effective implementation of efforts to enhance the Blue Economy. In addition, to achieve a strong and sustainable Blue Economy in Kenya, Marine Spatial Planning, which integrates ecological, social and economic objectives, will be key, as well as the involvement of the public and private sector as sources of financing.
The assessment will provide recommendations and policy options on the sectors with the highest potential for the Government of Kenya to pursue in the development of its strategy for the development of a Sustainable Blue Economy. It is expected that the process followed in this assessment will provide guidance to other countries seeking to tap into their own Blue Economy potential.
The reports contributing to this assessment are yet to be completed and will be finalized after further fieldwork and interviews with key experts, researchers and other stakeholders. A Validation Workshop, which will include a wide spectrum of stakeholders, is planned for September 2021, after which the assessment will be used to prepare policy briefs for submission to the Kenyan Government for consideration.
For updates on progress, check back on nairobiconvention.org!