Home OPINIONS Enabling private sector to catalyze Kenya’s blue economy

Enabling private sector to catalyze Kenya’s blue economy

The 10th Devolution Conference in Kenya marked a significant milestone in the nation’s history, bringing together leaders and development stakeholders from all 47 counties.

As Kenya reflects on the profound changes brought about by devolution over the past decade, it becomes clear that the private sector has strategically participated in shaping this new landscape.

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Collaborative Private Sector Engagement

Devolution has emerged as a propellant for Kenya towards elevated development across various dimensions. Local governments and communities, once marginalized within a centralized system, have experienced a surge in decision-making autonomy and access to resources. This empowerment has facilitated their engagement with the private sector, enabling collaborative efforts to address previously neglected needs and foster tailored development initiatives.

The distribution of resources at the county level has also been instrumental in rectifying historical disparities and directing investments into key sectors such as infrastructure, education, and healthcare. As decision-making is brought closer to the people, the private sector’s involvement has reinforced political accountability and transparency and allowed it to become an active partner in realizing community aspirations. This participatory approach has not only given a voice to the previously unheard, but also paved the way for gender-responsive mechanisms to be integrated into county development strategies.

The Devolved and Inclusive Blue Economy

One promising area highlighted during the Devolution Conference was the Blue Economy space. The sector encompasses a wide range of economic activities related to oceans, seas, lakes, and rivers. It also represents a dynamic sector that includes fisheries, aquaculture, maritime transportation, renewable energy, and more.

With its potential to generate jobs, boost local economies, and contribute to sustainable growth, it aligns closely with the objectives of both devolution and private sector engagement. Importantly, the Blue Economy also presents an avenue for promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.

As women’s participation in the formal economy continues to grow, the Blue Economy offers a unique platform for their engagement in roles ranging from fisherwomen and aquaculture workers to professionals in marine conservation and research. Moreover, the sector’s cross-cutting nature provides opportunities for women entrepreneurs to establish businesses in various sub-sectors, further contributing to economic diversification.

Challenges and Solutions

Despite Kenya’s advancements in devolution, the blue economy sector faces a myriad of challenges such as uncoordinated development, climate change impacts, depleting fish populations, and inadequate infrastructure. These issues, particularly in Kenya, have been exacerbated by fragile comprehensive policies and regulations governing marine resources, thus disproportionately affecting marginalized groups, including women and youth.

Recently, the Government of Kenya launched a blue economy strategic plan (2023-2027), and the plan included a structure to encourage the specialization required to support sustainable management and development of fisheries, aquaculture, and the blue economy in the country. The structure also took into consideration the devolved structure of government and acknowledged the role of County Governments in the blue economy sector.

Public-private partnerships (PPPs) have also remained pivotal in driving growth and sustainability within the blue economy. For example, initiatives such as the AECF’s Investing in Women in the Blue Economy Kenya (IIW BEK), supported by Global Affairs Canada and private sector stakeholders, exemplify how private sector engagement can facilitate financial access, inclusion, and profitability in the blue sector.

The private sector’s strength lies in its ability to finance and drive innovation, factors crucial for the sustainable management of the blue economy. Through research and development initiatives, companies can create advanced technologies that contribute to responsible resource management and reduced environmental impact. For instance, advancements in marine biotechnology can lead to the discovery of new pharmaceuticals and bioproducts, while innovations in aquaculture systems can address the growing demand for seafood without depleting natural fish stocks.

Moreover, the private sector’s involvement in conservation efforts is paramount. Sustainable management of marine resources and the preservation of marine ecosystems are essential components of a thriving blue economy. By combating illegal fishing, protecting coral reefs, and promoting responsible tourism, the private sector can actively contribute to the preservation of Kenya’s rich marine biodiversity.

Through collaboration with local communities, the private sector can promote capacity-building initiatives, knowledge transfer, and skill development. Supporting small-scale fishers and advocating for fair trade practices can empower marginalized communities, creating a more equitable distribution of benefits from the blue economy.

By addressing existing challenges, implementing comprehensive policies, and promoting inclusive partnerships, the country can position itself as a global leader in sustainable blue economy development. The journey ahead requires a united effort, with government and private sector leaders working hand in hand to propel Kenya’s blue economy toward a brighter and more prosperous future.

Victoria Sabula is the Chief Executive Officer, Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund

Victoria Sabula
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