• Fisheries is one of Kenya’s great unexploited resources, with a potential of creating hundreds of thousands of jobs
• Kenya has thus hardly scratched the surface of its fisheries potential for job creation.
Heads of state and government rarely communicate with the public through newspaper Op-Ed columns. And in particular they do not write Op-Eds about significant foreign policy issues.
They usually leave that to their Foreign Ministers or other government officials concerned with foreign affairs.
So, it was a surprise to see one published by The Washington Post Online and authored by not one, but leaders.
And not just any heads of state and government but US President Joe Biden (in his first ever Op-Ed as president); Japan Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, India’s Narendra Modi; and Australia’s Scott Morisson.
There is much to be gained in analysing the article to see what it implies not just for the world but even for Kenya in particular.
The purpose of the Op-Ed was to promote the “Free and Open Indo Pacific” idea but they approached the subject very indirectly, and very dramatically:
“In December 2004, the continental shelf off the coast of Indonesia shifted two meters, creating one of the largest tidal waves in modern history and a nearly unprecedented humanitarian crisis around the Indian Ocean. With millions displaced and hundreds of thousands killed, the Indo-Pacific region sounded a clarion call for help. Together, our four countries answered it.
Australia, India, Japan and the United States — a group of democratic nations dedicated to delivering results through practical cooperation — coordinated rapid humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to people in need. Our cooperation, known as “the Quad,” was born in crisis. It became a diplomatic dialogue in 2007 and was reborn in 2017.
Climate change was brought into the discussion:
“It is clear that climate change is both a strategic priority and an urgent global challenge, including for the Indo-Pacific region. That’s why we will work together and with others to strengthen the Paris agreement, and enhance the climate actions of all nations.”
The subject then turned to the great global health challenge of our time: the Covid-19 pandemic. On this the four leaders had this to say:
“And with an unwavering commitment to the health and safety of our people, we are determined to end the covid-19 pandemic because no country will be safe so long as the pandemic continues. The pandemic is among the greatest risks to health and economic stability in recent history, and we must work in partnership to stop it in its tracks. Now, we are launching an ambitious effort to help end Covid-19. Together, we pledge to expand and accelerate production in India of safe, accessible and effective vaccines.”
And it is when the Covid-19 pandemic is mentioned that matters of direct interest to Kenya arise:
“The pandemic is among the greatest risks to health and economic stability in recent history, and we must work in partnership to stop it in its tracks. Now, we are launching an ambitious effort to help end covid-19. Together, we pledge to expand and accelerate production in India of safe, accessible and effective vaccines. We will partner at each stage to ensure that vaccines are administered throughout the Indo-Pacific region into 2022. We will combine our scientific ingenuity, financing, formidable productive capacity and long history of global-health partnership to surge the supply of life-saving vaccines, in close collaboration with multilateral organizations including the World Health Organisation and Covax Facility.”
This Covax Facility is of course the project that has already delivered the first batches of Covid-19 vaccines to Kenya. And notably, India has followed closely with its own donation of vaccines.
This is an act of unforgettable generosity made even more remarkable by the fact that India is still continuing its own vaccination programme. What they have given us is not “leftovers” from a successfully completed vaccination campaign. It is intended rather to provide vaccines for Kenya’s frontline workers, even as the war against the coronavirus rages on, as much in India as here in Kenya.
The nurses, doctors, policemen, teachers, and others who will benefit from India’s generosity will now be able to go about their duties without being weighed down by fear of infection by the deadly coronavirus.
But it’s not only about vaccines. There is an economic dimension as well:
Ending and recovering from the pandemic, standing up to climate change, and advancing our shared regional vision will not be easy. We know we cannot and will not succeed without coordination and cooperation. We will renew and strengthen our partnerships in Southeast Asia, starting with the Association for Southeast Asian Nations, work with the Pacific Islands, and engage the Indian Ocean region to meet this moment. The Quad is a flexible group of like-minded partners dedicated to advancing a common vision and to ensuring peace and prosperity. We welcome and will seek opportunities to work with all of those who share in those goals.”
This mention of “engaging the Indian Ocean region…to ensure peace and prosperity” is of deep significance to Kenya.
Here you note that Japan has been at the forefront of helping Kenya set up its own Coastguard service, with a gift of high-speed patrol motorboats to the maritime police unit a few years ago, along with funds for training and capacity building for the Kenya Coast Guard.
Further, the global conference on the Blue Economy was held here in Nairobi in 2019, with financial support from the government of Japan.
Fisheries is one of Kenya’s great unexploited resources, with a potential of creating hundreds of thousands of jobs, and the creation of new export markets for the products harvested from the Indian Ocean.
In a country where youth unemployment has long passed crisis level, this is an opportunity of great significance.
Global marine fisheries are an economic sector which constitute an annual value of about $100 billion, with associated jobs estimated at about 100 million, directly and indirectly. Kenya has thus hardly scratched the surface of its fisheries potential for job creation.
So, there is much that has already been received by Kenya from members of “The Quad”. And much more yet to be expected.