The need for high-scale diplomatic engagement to anchor the country’s image in the global arena as an attractive investment destination cannot be gainsaid.
As President Uhuru Kenyatta attends the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London, behind the scenes, high stake multi-lateral and bilateral deliberations will underscore the gains realised at the sidelines of the forum.
Uhuru’s visit to UK with a composite brief of up scaling collaboration with Britain and other Commonwealth members, on possible partnership to exploit the almost virgin blue economy resource along the Kenyan coastline and the Big Four point pillar agenda, comes just two years before the 2020 Oceans Conference to be held in Portugal where Kenya will be playing a key role.
This is an opportune time when the country is enjoying international goodwill following the closing of ranks between erstwhile political protagonists, President Uhuru and Opposition leader Raila Odinga.
The Jubilee administration and the Opposition have expressed their firm commitment to work for economic prosperity and unity of the country, a statement that sends positive signals to potential international investors.
Blue economy provides unlimited opportunities like harvesting of living resources such as seafood and marine bio technology, extraction of non-living resources (seabed mining) and generation of new resources (energy and fresh water).
However, for long, the focus has only been on fisheries both for domestic and export markets. Currently, the blue economy is generating Sh178 billion annually and is projected to go up to Sh430 billion annually if the section is revamped to fir from all cylinders.
That Kenya has requested Cuba to co-host a high-level conference on sustainable Blue Economy conference slated for November, this year, in Nairobi is an indication of Nairobi’s growing confidence as a regional economic hub.
The country is on an upward trend in projecting her global stakes in Blue Economy exploitation. Fisheries account for only about 0.5 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and generate employment for over two million Kenyans through fishing, boat building, equipment repair, fish processing and other ancillary activities.
This means the full economic potential of the marine resource has not been scraped below the surface, despite Kenya enjoying a maritime territory of 230,000 square kilometres, stretching a distance of 200 nautical miles of the Indian Ocean.
Kenya’s maritime and blue economy security calls for enhancing through bilateral and multilateral engagements with other states. Since the Kenya Defence Forces is the chair of the newly-formed Blue Economy Committee to safeguard Kenya’s territorial integrity, the blue economy needs to be entrenched as a key government policy providing a point of security collaboration to help create a future that is fairer, more secure, more prosperous and sustainable.
Security co-operation will be majorly underscored in maritime and blue economy exploitation in tackling some of the transnational crimes like piracy, drug trafficking, human trafficking, illegal fishing and boarder disputes just to mention a few, which thrive in the unmanned international waters.
Significant strides have been made by the government to realise this dream with the establishment of the Blue Economy Implementation Committee in January last year, to coordinate and oversee the implementation of the programme.
To whom much has ben given, much is expected. Such a statement is what President Uhuru must be carrying the weight of in his State sojourn to London, one of Kenya’s biggest partners in international relations. —The author is a reporter, People Daily