By Jared Oundo,
Thank you Mr. President for accepting our request to engage you on the Blue Economy Conference.
It is a great achievement for Kenya to host the Sustainable Blue Economy conference. How has the country invested to benefit from the conference and boost its economy?
The Blue Economy is a new frontier for development as we move to tap into the productive capacity of our water resources and empower communities in a sustainable way as we build our economy. This conference presents immense opportunities for the growth of our economy especially sectors such as fisheries, tourism, maritime transport, off-shore mining among others in a way that the land economy has failed to do. By hosting the conference, we as a nation affirm our appreciation of the importance of conserving and sustainably using our oceans, seas, lakes, rivers and marine resources through enabling cooperation for shared prosperity.
Kenya barely produces enough fish for its population with its fish production dropping to 14,952 metric tons in 2016. In line with the food security agenda initiated by you Mr. President, how is Kenya positioning itself to overturn this trend?
In the run up to the Blue Economy conference we launched the National Eat More fish campaign. Now, we cannot campaign for a dietary intake increase for fish if we don’t know where the fish will come from. As a nation we are putting in place incentives for aquaculture to be able to increase output of fish. These include refrigeration at beach landing sites, semi-processing at community level which will also increase the income for communities.
Inland fish production through fish ponds and caging has boosted Kenya’s fish production. How is the government bolstering these initiatives to facilitate increased levels of fish production?
Kenya is now ranked 4th major producer of aquaculture in Africa. This is exemplified by the fact that production from aquaculture systems recorded a growth from 4,218 metric tonnes (MT) in 2006 to peak at 24,096 MT in 2014, representing 15% of total national fish production. We are working with county government to incentivize farmers more to be able to increase fish production. Today there are numerous new technologies that have come up to increase fish production from fish ponds. Our state agencies are passing these technologies to farmers to enable them increase their yield output.
The lake region has unexploited resources in tourism, hotel industry, sporting activities and holiday destinations that would turn the region into a vibrant economic zone and huge contributor to the country’s GDP. How is the national government supporting the marketing and publicity of these facilities and activities in the region locally and internationally to boost its economic benefits? The Lake Victoria Tourism Association complained that the region is not receiving enough tourists because the government only concentrates marketing tourism in the Coastal Kenya and Rift Valley neglecting Western Kenya.
As a nation we fully appreciate the value of tourism to our economy. If we look at the numbers, it is true that the lake region has received lower number of tourists comparted to the coastal region. However, that is changing. We have put in place infrastructural support to be able to incentivize people to invest in the lake region. If you look in the last five years, the number of hotels have come up in the region are quite remarkable. Only this year, the region hosted two major national events, the Annual Devolution Conference and the Mashujaa day celebrations. However, more needs to be done, and the county leadership together with the ministry of tourism are working on way to enhance tourism numbers. The region boasts of tremendous sites, from the Kisumu to Rusinga and other wonderful islands and sites. We should encourage guests both local and international to venture.
How is the national government collaborating with county governments to enhance growth of aquaculture and the Blue Economy in Kenya?
Indeed To achieve strong and sustainable economic growth, as a nation we need to diversifying our sources of growth by prioritizing the blue economy. The activities of the blue economy include harvesting of living resources such as sea food and marine biotechnology, extraction of non-living resources (seabed mining), and generation of untapped resources (energy and fresh water). To date, Kenya has only focused on fisheries both for domestic and export markets. However this cannot be achieved at a national level, there is need to work with county governments. In October 2018, we were in Bomet for the Lake Region bloc to hold blue economy and trade forum. So we are exploring the tremendous opportunities to all harness the potential of tapping into the blue economy.
Fish imports from China to Kenya have been a hot discussion in the country. After your executive order that banned the fish imports from the Asian country, how has Kenya interacted with China on the issue following its feedback on the same that mentioned ‘hostility’? Has it affected Kenya’s relationship with China? Recently it was reported that China threatened to stop SGR funding after Kenya bans Chinese fish imports.
From the onset, we have not in any hostile partnership with China. However we are looking at a mutual arrangement that will not be at the detriment of the livelihoods of our people. Livelihoods of Communities in this nation are anchored on activities such as fishing. Therefore if there is an action that is causing harm to the livelihoods of these communities we then take a step back and look for ways of coming with mechanisms with create a win-win for our people and our partners.
What is your message to Kenyans on exploiting the blue economy in line with The Big Four Agenda?
Allow me to point out that the Blue Economy absolutely compliments the Big 4 Development agenda.
Through the Blue Economy we will work on:
- Managing and sustaining marine life & conservation
- Smart shipping, ports, transportation and global connectivity
- Employment, job creation and poverty eradication
- Sustainable energy, mineral resources and innovative industries
- Maritime security, safety and regulatory enforcement
Jared Oundo, is the Editor-In-Chief, Aqua Africa Magazine where this article first appeared.
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