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Are we ready to pluck fruits of the Sustainable Blue Economy conference?

By Emma Seline Akinyi Okello | August 22nd 2019
Foreign Affairs PS Amb Macharia Kamau when he inspected KICC where the Blue Economy conference was held in 2018. [File, Standard]

When the Government announced that Kenya will be hosting the Sustainable Blue economy conference in November last year, many Kenyans could not grasp what the hullabaloo was all about. About 18, 810 participants drawn from 184 countries with more than 200 speakers made the glamour of the much-anticipated event a success. Though the majority of Kenyans may not be abreast with the conference resolutions, the fruits of the events are becoming visible.

Among commitments from the conference included the aspect of infrastructure which basically touches on maritime transportation. If well undertaken, this commitment will see the government take deliberate measures to revive Kenya’s maritime transport by building and expanding the ports shipping facilities and partnering with the global shipping lines.

Once implemented, opportunities for trade and transportation will open and Kenyans should be eager to tap the potential partnerships within the region. For instance, once the upgrade of the Kisumu inland waterway is complete, trade opportunities will emerge within the Lake region. President Uhuru’s four-time visit to the ongoing upgrade of the Kisumu pier clearly demonstrates the Government’s commitment towards the success of the Blue Economy conference resolutions.

There has been challenges of transportation of fresh fish from Lake Victoria to other parts of the country even though Lake Victoria is the primary inland waterway servicing both the central and northern corridors.

When completed, traders within the region will be expected to tap into the opportunities created by the extension of the Standard Gauge Railway from Nairobi to Kisumu. The enhanced railway enterprise is expected to achieve competition, efficiency and financial viability and strengthened the partnership between the Government and the private sector.

Local fishermen who have been grappling with the high cost of transportation of fish products from the lake to major destinations will get a reprieve which will enhance the cost of their produce. With enhanced earnings, we are looking forward to reduced rates of HIV infections amongst the fishermen within the lake region. The spread of HIV has been linked with poverty where women casually engage in unprotected sex in exchange for fish. This could not have come at a better time when the former Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga is the serving African Union High Representative for Infrastructure. 

The movement of people within the lake region will also enhance integration which will free rural people from the constraint of poor access to markets and services reducing rural poverty, improving welfare and opportunities and stimulating agribusiness. This will complement the existing Kisumu Airport which will be handy in the transportation of perishable items. In addition to trade, employment opportunities are set to arise which in the long the term will result in the growth of the Lake region.

Kisumu pier under construction will play an important role in improving domestic connectivity and regional integration. This will make it easier for locals to reduce travel times for instance from Kisumu to Kendu Bay, Homa Bay, Mbita, Rusinga, Mfangano, Usenge, Asembo, Port Victoria and other towns around Lake Victoria.

Institutions of higher learning and research should be open to opportunities for funding research and development to enable continuing sector improvement and sustainability. This includes works on sector policy and strategies that are needed to improve revenue collection and management, incentivize public and private sector investments.

It is therefore important for bodies like the Lake Region Economic Block to team up and enlighten their constituents on the opportunities that arise with the development of the infrastructure systems. This will enhance capacity building of locals on maritime training and collaboration of world bodies such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

On the regional perspective, the three countries sharing Lake Victoria will have integration opportunities that will work towards cementing the already existing trade and social partnerships.

This therefore calls for participation of all sectors that were involved in the formulation of the Sustainable Blue Economy conference to step up the momentum and speed up the implementation of the other commitments that were assigned to Kenya. Kenyans on the other hand should be ready to embrace the fruits of the conference and ensure the opportunities presented uplift their economic, social and cultural activities. This will in the long run accelerate the achievements of the UN 2030 agenda and the sustainable development goals.

The writer is a maritime Logistics Consultant.

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