Kenya turns to blue economy for jobs, wealth creation

Kenya Army commander Robert Kibochi, Vice Chief of Defence Forces Lt. Gen. Joseph Kasaon, Defence CS Raychelle Omamo and her Agriculture counterpart Mwangi Kiunjuri during Defence Dialogues at Kenya Army headquarters, February 28, 2018. /JOSEPH NDUNDA
Kenya Army commander Robert Kibochi, Vice Chief of Defence Forces Lt. Gen. Joseph Kasaon, Defence CS Raychelle Omamo and her Agriculture counterpart Mwangi Kiunjuri during Defence Dialogues at Kenya Army headquarters, February 28, 2018. /JOSEPH NDUNDA

Kenya has turned its focus to the exploitation of the blue economy with the creation of a state department on shipping and maritime affairs.

Defence CS Raychelle Omamo announced

on Wednesday that a blue economy committee had been formed, the key goal being economic gain through wealth and job creation.

Omamo also announced the

Kenya Coast Guard Bill to provide the legal and regulatory framework for the creation of a viable maritime enforcement force to protect territorial waters.

The blue economy sees the

exploitation and sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth

Omamo

said Kenya's strategy for this economy seeks to harness locally available maritime resources in a responsible and sustainable manner.

The growth potential for fisheries, aquaculture, energy, shipping, trade scientific and leisure industries is clear.

"To deliver on the promises inherent in the blue economy and to create the secure enabling environment needed to guarantee sustainability, substantial effort and resources must be deployed to construct maritime infrastructure

and vessels, generate and support new industries," the CS noted.

She spoke at the Department of Defence headquarters during defence dialogues - a forum of high commissioners, national, regional and international partners who discuss marine security and the blue economy.

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Omamo further noted the need to improve

maritime surveillance and response capabilities, train and build the capacity of maritime artisans and professionals, undertake more research and create awareness.

The exploitation of the blue economy is hampered by

threats including illegal and unregulated fishing, piracy and armed robbery, maritime terrorism, illicit trade in crude oil, arms, drug and human trafficking and smuggling of contraband goods.

Others are degradation of marine ecosystems through discharge of oil, the dumping of toxic waste, illegal sand harvesting and the destruction of coral reefs and coastal forests.

"These problems are further compounded by the onslaught of climate change which has led to rising sea levels and devastating erratic weather patterns," Omamo said.

"All these threats exacerbate poverty, hunger and underdevelopment. They precipitate high revenue losses, stimulate corruption and violence and encourage the uncontrolled migration of desperate youths from our shores."

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The Minister

said their goals are the expeditious delivery of real value in maritime security, trade, new industries and jobs for Kenyans. These, she noted, demand

dedication, careful planning and execution by the government and the forging of strong bilateral, regional and international ties.

The ultimate goal is long term development, she said, adding:

"Our objective is not only to avail economic gains through wealth and job creation but to also secure social benefits for present and future generations and protect our marine ecosystems," Omamo said.

She noted that in the absence of security, the vast majority of economic activities associated with the blue economy will be affected.

"Unsecured ocean territories constitute ungoverned spaces in which criminals, insurgents and terrorists can operate with impunity."