Training, skills key to make the best of Blue Economy

Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology Vice-Chancellor Prof Victoria Wambui Ngumi.
Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology Vice-Chancellor Prof Victoria Wambui Ngumi speaks on maritime education and training and the Blue Economy. 

What exactly is the blue economy, what are its components, and why is it important for universities to embrace courses that equip students for it?

According to the World Bank definition, the Blue Economy is the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, and ocean ecosystem health. The Blue Economy encompasses: Fisheries, maritime transport, renewable energy, tourism, climate change and waste management.

Where did this concept emerge and how has it been adapted in Kenya?

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The Blue Economy concept originated from the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro in 2012. Kenya has adopted the Blue Economy concept and prioritised it as one of the sectors to drive the achievement of Vision 2030 development agenda. This is evidenced by among others the establishment of Kenya Maritime Authority and the Department of Fisheries. The Ministry of Agriculture established the Blue Economy Implementation Committee. We have also seen the creation of the State Department for Maritime and Shipping Affairs. The equipping, dredging and expansion of the Mombasa Port is also underway as is the revival of Kenya National Shipping Line. Possibly the most visible is the LAPSSET (Lamu Port, South Sudan, and Ethiopia Transport Corridor) program, which encompasses construction of the new state of the art Lamu Port and the hosting of the International Blue Economy Conference in Nairobi.

Globally, it is estimated that the blue economy contributes about US$ 1.5 trillion per annum (three per cent of global GDP). Being one of Kenya’s seventh sector that can drive the Vision 2030 agenda, what are some of the ways through which the government can equip itself to achieve this?

The Government of Kenya should aim to build human capacity. This involves training of human resources in all the components of the Blue Economy. Kenya should put down applicable policies that will facilitate the sustainable exploitation of the Blue Economy. Kenya should set up the much needed infrastructure. Citizens should also be sensitised on the opportunities available in this economy.

Kenya, over the years, has mostly focused on fishing for the domestic market. What are the other ways through which the Blue Economy can be diversified?

The government should establish and equip more training facilities for other aspects of the Blue Economy. This will equip the citizens with the requisite skills. These include shipbuilding, navigation, tourism, marine renewable energy, offshore gas exploration and mining, waste management and marine ecosystems.

How will maritime education assist in tapping into the Blue Economy?

Maritime education and training will definitely assist Kenya tap into the Blue Economy by training specialised and skilled personnel needed to enable the country fully exploit it in a sustainable manner.

In 2017, JKuat won an international competitive bid to host the regional Maritime Technology Cooperation Centre for Africa. How tough was this bid?

Winning the bid to host MTCC-Africa (Maritime Technology Cooperation Centre-Africa) was quite competitive. We beat South Africa (South Africa International Maritime Institute and South Africa Maritime and Safety Authority), Namibia (Namibian Port Authority) and Ghana (Ghana Regional Maritime University). This was at the second stage of the bidding process. At round one there were several other organisations from other African countries.

JKuat took the step to be part of the Maritime Education and Training when it launched the BSc Marine Engineering program in 2010 (then under the Department of Mechanical Engineering). The Department of Marine Engineering and Maritime Operations was established in 2015.

How has winning this bid boosted the university’s desire to be the centre of marine education in the country and the region?

MTCC-Africa has provided a platform for research and training in maritime-related fields like green house gas emissions from the maritime shipping industry and alternative energy sources and use. MTCC-Africa is carrying out maritime related trainings for capacity building for climate mitigation in the maritime shipping industry for in Africa. Research includes fuel consumption data collection and reporting from selected ships in the region and energy audit at the port of Mombasa and other selected ports in Africa. This is then disseminated through conference workshops.

How is the university equipping itself to empower women in as far as the course is concerned?

At the beginning, the student applicants for BSc Marine Engineering were majorly male. However, the enrollment of students into the program has gradually seen the proportion of female students rise steadily over the years to 50 per cent this year.

What are some of the challenges facing the Blue Economy in Kenya and how can we curb them?

For the country to benefit fully from the blue economy there has to be a multi sectoral approach considering the institution of higher learning dealing with maritime affairs, the administrations, port authority, private shipping lines and the state department dealing with shipping and maritime affairs. Maritime education and training geared at tapping the resources needs to be strengthen. Allocation of funds for the training from the national government also need to be done, among other measures.

Since your launch of the maritime engineering course, how many students have enrolled so far and are Kenyans ready for it?

So far 79 students have gone through the program. Among these, ten will be graduating on November 30 (tomorrow). The current student population enrolled for BSc Marine Engineering is 120.

In terms of the course, what is the university planning? What are the developments that you are seeking to venture into in terms of the Blue Economy?

The university, through the department of Marine Engineering and Maritime Operations, has developed two new curricula for BSc Nautical Science and BSc Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering. They were taken through stakeholders’ consultation. They are now at the advanced stage of University approval before launching soon.  

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Chalk and talkBlue Economy?Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and TechnologyProf Victoria Wambui Ngumimaritime education