Kenya’s coastal and marine environment is endowed with rich natural resources, which are of immense social and cultural value to the coastal region inhabitants and the nation at large. Yet though their environmental and cultural value is undeniable, the resources also have massive economic potential. To harness such potential, the Kenyan government created a Presidential Blue Economy Task Force in 2017. Blue Economy (BE) objectives, as identified by the Task Force through stakeholder participation, prioritize the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, livelihoods and jobs, and ocean ecosystem health. The Task Force oversees interventions to achieve these objectives in sectors such as fisheries and aquaculture, maritime transport, culture and tourism, environmental conservation and oil and mining. The eight-member committee reports monthly to the President.
Underscoring how much the BE has become a priority for Kenya, the government hosted the first-ever global ‘Sustainable Blue Economy’ conference on 26 to 28 November 2018 with Japan and Canada. Over 16,000 participants from 184 countries attended the conference, which resulted in the Nairobi Statement of Intent on Advancing a Sustainable Blue Economy. Key political messages in the statement include the need to mobilize financing for the BE; create BE and people-centered strategies on sustainable development; promote access to gender equality; and strengthen science and research, among others. Participants made voluntary commitments amounting to $172.2 million in various aspects of the BE, as well as several non-monetary commitments in areas like partnerships and capacity-building .
In his opening address, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta noted his own country’s present and future commitments to a sustainable BE. Noting the need for policies, strategies, and mechanisms to harness the BE, he pledged that Kenya would expand its existing institutional governance mechanisms to enhance coordinated management of the BE. Waste and plastic pollution that threatens food security, public health, and marine life needs to be prevented, and he highlighted Kenya’s recent ban on single-use plastic as an important step in this regard. Countries also need to ensure responsible and sustainable fishing—a sector on which millions of people depend—which is why Kenya launched a new Coast Guard in 2018 to fight piracy and illegal fishing. This initiative also supports Kenya’s commitment at the UN Ocean Conference, in which the country pledged it would ensure sustainable fisheries resources through strengthening ocean governance and environmental protection. President Kenyatta also referenced the creation of a new Fishing Corporation, housing programme, and port expansion measures as examples of how countries could revitalize their economies through BE initiatives.
Implementation of these and similar progressive actions from Kenya and partners can help the country and region development vibrant and resilient economies that are protective of the environment. As President Kenyatta noted, “unless our environmental riches are protected, there can be no lasting prosperity for any of us.”
 Sustainable Blue Economy Conference Technical Document Review Committee. “Report on the Global Sustainable Blue Economy Conference.” Blue Economy Conference, Dec. 2018, www.blueeconomyconference.go.ke/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/SBEC-FINAL-REPORT-8-DECEMBER-2018-rev-2-1-2-PDF2-3-compressed.pdf.
 “Speech by His Excellency Hon. Uhuru Kenyatta, C.G.H., President and Commander In Chief of The Defence Forces of The Republic Of Kenya During The Leaders' Commitment Segment Of The Sustainable Blue Economy Conference At Kenyatta International Convention Centre, Nairobi, On 26th November, 2018.” The Presidency of the Republic of Kenya, 26 Nov. 2018, www.president.go.ke/2018/11/26/speech-by-his-excellency-hon-uhuru-kenyatta-c-g-h-president-and-commander-in-chief-of-the-defence-forces-of-the-republic-of-kenya-during-the-leaders-commitment-segment-of-the-sustainable/.