NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 20 – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is Tuesday set to host a session with countries sponsoring the forthcoming Sustainable Blue Economy Conference, Kenya’s inaugural ocean economy summit.
Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma will be meeting among others, representatives of Canada and Japan who are co-hosting the three-day event commencing on November 26 to the tune of Sh300 million each.
The two co-hosts are funding the conference alongside China, South Africa, Qatar, Fiji and the United Kingdom.
Others are Portugal, Norway, and Nigeria.
The University of Nairobi, Kenya Tourism Board, Capital Markets Authority, the Kenya Ports Authority, and Kenya Commercial Bank are also sponsoring the event.
Among foreign leaders expected to attend the conference are Seychelles President Danny Faure who was last week named the African Union champion for the Blue Economy.
In the buildup to the conference, President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday unveiled the Kenya Coast Guard Service, a newly formed security contingent tasked with protecting Kenya’s territorial waters.
The service stationed at Liwatoni in Mombasa is seen as critical to ongoing efforts to revitalize Kenya’s blue economy which currently contributes a mere 2.5 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product.
Estimates show that the country currently loses Sh10 billion annually as a result of illegal fishing.
During the launch of the Coast Guard, President Kenyatta directed the repossessing of public fish landing sites in the Indian oceans, Lake Victoria, and Turkana illegally acquired by private individuals.
Kenyatta gave the State Department of Fisheries and the National Lands Commission until March next year to recover grabbed landing sites even as he signed two Executive Orders establishing Kenya Fisheries Corporation and Bandari Maritime Academy.
“For too long we have experienced multiple problems with marine security including illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by foreign trawlers, smuggling of contraband goods, degradation of marine ecosystems through discharge of oil, toxic waste dumping and the destruction of coral reefs and coastal forests,” the Head of State said.
“The Coast Guard will ensure that our ocean will no longer be used by drug and human traffickers, illegal arms dealers and illegal fishing vessels. It will guard against exploitation of our natural resources by foreign countries and ensure that never again will a foreign vessel steal our fish,” he said.
Kenyatta announced plans to harness the potential of coastal and inland waters which cover about 222,950 square kilometres by establishing transhipment and logistics hubs in Mombasa and Lamu creating some 10,000 jobs by 2022.
“We will create a destination port for cruise ships, establish world-class training facilities in maritime studies, have a fully-fledged and operational national shipping line by urgently reviving the Kenya National Shipping Line,” said the President.
Deputy President William Ruto who accompanied Kenyatta to the launch of the Coast Guard described the commitment by the government as a major step in transforming Kenya’s economy.
“Government efforts to revive the Blue Economy is about enhancing our manufacturing sector, job creation and food security which are at the heart of the Big 4 agenda,” Ruto said.
Ten foreign leaders including President Faure are expected to attend the Blue Economy Conference at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre, in Nairobi.
According to the Director General of the conference’s Organising Committee, Ambassador Ben Ogutu, over 50 ministers have confirmed attendance for the three-day event.
Others are Namibia’s Hage Geingob, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, Congo’s Sassou Nguesso, Somali’s Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, and Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama.
“These matters of Blue Economy have got to have political goodwill and commitment to drive the process forward. The attendance of these leaders is actually a very strong statement from the leaders,” he said.
Ogutu told editors on Thursday that experts and scientists will also be attending the conference which Kenya will be co-hosting with Canada and Japan.
“We’ve invited luminaries in terms of speakers and experts including the Under-Secretary-General and Special Envoy for the Oceans on the United Nations, the Secretary-General of the African Ship-owners Association, as well as Professors,” he indicated.
Ogutu said a number of side events have been lined up including in the areas of climate and sustainable energy.
“One of the side events will be organised by the African Union Commission in conjunction with United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). The event will focus on what strategies we have in relation with maritime security,” he pointed out.
Governors of sea facing cities are also expected to attend the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference.