By Mwanaharusi Jilo

City Blue Hotel, Mombasa — In a joyous celebration of achievement, the Go Blue graduation ceremony unfolded yesterday at the City Blue Hotel, Mombasa, hosted by the transformative Sote Hub. 

Participants from the Go Blue Training Programme gathered to mark the culmination of a six-month journey that empowered coastal entrepreneurs and paved the way for sustainable growth and success.

This groundbreaking initiative, championed by David Ogiga, Director of Sote Hub, emphasized inclusivity, with 70% of the beneficiaries being women entrepreneurs. The program, exclusively tailored for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) within the blue economy sector, spanned six counties along the coastal regions.

“To qualify for the program, businesses needed to meet specific criteria, including a minimum income of one hundred thousand and at least five employees,” explained David Ogiga. 

David Ogiga, Director of Sote Hub addressing the Go Blue Training Programme Graduates. Photo/ Ali Amiri – KD

Its hands-on approach made Go Blue stand out – trainers visited MSMEs at their business locations, observed operations, and provided tailored advice based on real-world challenges.

Patience Simba, a mentorship trainer, lauded the program’s effectiveness compared to traditional classroom settings. She highlighted the ability to interact with and address issues directly on the ground, resulting in tangible impacts such as improved access to markets, service providers, value chain opportunities, and connections with government and other organizations.

Patience Simba, a mentorship trainer, was among the instructors who helped train the over 100 MSMEs for the Go Blue Programme. Photo/A li Amiri – KD

Dickson Benzinga, Director, and Co-founder of Crabshark Restaurant in Watamu, shared the challenges they faced before the training, including issues with management, finance, market access, and reluctance to collaborate with external expertise. The training addressed these challenges and instilled the importance of having expertise, leading to hiring an expertise manager.

Dickson Benzinga, Director, and Co-founder of Crabshark Restaurant in Watamu speaking on his experience with Sote Hub and the Go Blue Programme. Photo/ Ali Amiri – KD

The Go Blue training successfully equipped 100 MSMEs, and in collaboration with Sote Hub, enhanced 320 businesses, yielding increased revenue, market share, and staff count. As the program transitions to the mentorship phase, the focus shifts to connecting graduates with funding, technical expertise, and market opportunities.

Brenda Kibiku, a technical advisor at Germain Development Corporation, expressed expectations for graduated MSMEs to integrate newfound knowledge into their businesses, emphasizing sustainability and greening processes within the blue economy.

Brenda Kibiku, a technical advisor at Germain Development Corporation. Photo Ali Amiri – KD

Ann Kahuya, from Tunaweza PWD, showcased a commitment to environmentally friendly products, including reusable sanitary towels, cloth diapers, and recycled magazine necklaces. Their advocacy extends to addressing climate change, promoting the rights of people living with disabilities, and combating gender-based violence in children.

Ann Kahuya, from the Tunaweza PWD group, shared her experience with the Go Blue Programme and Sote Hub. Photo/ Ali Amiri – KD

Asha Juma Mlingo, Director of Fisheries in Mombasa, commended the initiative as a significant opportunity for small and medium enterprises, affirming the county’s support for such capacity-building endeavors in fisheries, agriculture, and various sectors.

Asha Juma Mlingo, Director of Fisheries in Mombasa congratulated the graduates and appreciated the efforts by Sote Hub in running the Go Blue Programme Photo/ Ali Amiri -KD

David Ogiga assured continued support from Sote Hub throughout the entrepreneurs’ journey, promising to celebrate successes and provide assistance in times of need. The program owes its success to its partners, including the European Union, Jumuiya ya Kaunti za Pwani, GIZ, Blue Radio, and others.

Gloria Kihara, Co-founder of Copak Safaris, praised the comprehensive Go Blue training, highlighting its coverage of financial management, marketing, product development, sustainability, and eco-friendly practices. 

Gloria Kihara, Co-founder of Copak Safaris

For Kihara, the training served as an eye-opener, providing validation and guidance on areas to emphasize for improved income.

The graduation ceremony marked the end of the training and the beginning of a new chapter for these empowered coastal entrepreneurs.