Millions of people, particularly in the developing world, depend on oceans for food security and economic development. A green economy is the effective use of the earth’s natural resources, while a blue economy depends on healthy marine resources.
The development of a blue economy in Kenya is hampered by factors that include overfishing, climate change, pollution and the capital-intensive development of sectors such as shipping and transportation. Charles Ngunjiri, a Senior Assistant Director in the Ministry of East African Community (EAC), Labour and Social Protection in Nairobi, Kenya, believes that continuous financial investment and human capacity building is required in the maritime sector.
When Charles returned from the Ocean Governance and Maritime Security Short Course at the University of Wollongong in Australia in 2014, he put his newly acquired skills and networks to good use. He organised the first ever high-profile maritime capacity-building workshop and information-sharing session on behalf of the Ministry.
He collaborated with TRADE MARK East Africa (TMEA) and the Government of Kenya, and persuaded three of his fellow Alumni to lead presentations on ocean governance and maritime security. The objective of the January 2015 workshop held in Mombasa was to create awareness, identify opportunities for collaboration through maritime stakeholder engagement and contribute to the sustainable development of the blue economy in Kenya. The workshop targeted participants from all maritime entities in the country, and was attended by the heads of these entities or their representatives.
By sharing maritime security and governance experiences, the participants were able to identify challenges in the sector that hindered business opportunities in the EAC. The participants also suggested solutions to the challenges and proposed the future engagement of maritime sector stakeholders on a regular basis. Charles plans to follow this up with a regional workshop for the East African countries once funding has been secured, further extending the benefit of this short course.
According to Charles, the workshop succeeded in encouraging East African and Indian Ocean countries to address maritime security and ocean governance issues, and now, two years after the workshop, benefits are evident. Kenya has reviewed its maritime legislation in accordance with the existing international maritime conventions, a Department for Fisheries and Blue Economy has been established, and the government has increased funding to the maritime sector.
The workshop also assisted in establishing a network of maritime specialists and stakeholders. Several women who actively participated in the workshop have benefited from the shared information, which will help them advocate for the increased involvement of more women in blue economy development. In facing the sectoral challenges through dialogue, the EAC can look forward to an increasingly developed blue economy that will progress the sustainable development goals of eradicating poverty, while sustaining economic growth, creating decent job opportunities and maintaining healthy ecosystems.
Charles is a valued Alumnus of the Australia Awards programme. He sits on Australia Awards interview panels, and has contributed to the review of the Ocean Governance and Maritime Security Short Course. He is the current Chairperson of the Kenya-Australia Alumni Association.