By Patrick Chiriba and Ian Kiptoo

The second edition of the Blue Economy Investment and Innovation Summit concluded yesterday at Sote Hub, Nyali, amidst the backdrop of heavy rain in Mombasa.

The main summit, a flagship event within the week-long series, was opened by the Slovak Ambassador to Kenya, Katarína Leligdonova, signifying international participation and support for the blue economy’s growth and innovation in Kenya.

The day featured insightful speeches from prominent figures and a pivotal panel discussion that delved deep into the intricacies of the blue economy.

The panel discussion, a key highlight of the day, covered various aspects, including skills development, investment opportunities, digitization, and government involvement in the blue economy.

Panel discussion delving into the pillars of the blue economy

The panelists stressed the importance of skill-building programs tailored to the evolving needs of the maritime sector. These programs are vital in preparing a workforce with the knowledge and expertise to navigate the challenges and opportunities of the blue economy.

Investment discussions shed light on the diverse funding opportunities available, ranging from impact investing to green bonds. There was a strong emphasis on innovative financing models that drive sustainability.

The role of technology in optimizing marine operations, reducing environmental impacts, and increasing efficiency was a central theme of the digitization discussion.

Government involvement also took center stage, highlighting the public sector’s pivotal role in shaping the blue economy’s policy landscape and supporting responsible ocean management initiatives.

The keynote speakers at the main summit were the Cabinet Secretary for Youth Affairs and Sports, Hon. Ababu-Namwamba, and the UN-Habitat Deputy Executive Director, Michal Mlynár.

CS Ababu-Namwamba delivers his keynote speech at the Blue Summit. Photo/Ali Amiri – KD

CS Ababu-Namwamba underscored the role of young people in driving innovation and transformation.

“Young people in this community are now drivers of change. We have demonstrated time and again that our young people are innovators,” he said.

He added: “I’m a firm believer in innovation. Innovation to push the community, country, and continent to the next level. Innovation around new frontiers of development such as the blue economy.”

The CS also commended the government for placing innovation at the forefront, highlighting the shift in prioritizing the youths’ innovative capabilities.

“President William Ruto’s highest motivation is to see the youth of this country realize their potential. This is the first government that has put innovation at the forefront. Take advantage of that and be drivers of change,” he stated.

The UN-Habitat Deputy Executive Director, Michal Mlynár, focused on the immense potential of sustainable urban centers in harnessing the blue economy’s opportunities.

UN-Habitat Deputy Executive Director Michal Mlynar shares insights on innovation’s role in harnessing blue economy opportunities. Photo/ Ali Amiri – KD

“Many urban centers are located along the coastlines and waterfronts. They must harness each tremendous opportunity sustainable blue economy presents,” Michal said.

Michal highlighted the collaboration between the UN-Habitat and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), including their flagship initiative in the country – the Go Blue project.

The project, done in partnership with the European Union, is implemented in the six coastal counties.

“We can all work towards harnessing the potential of cities to benefit the blue economy, through sustainable livelihoods, green and blue job creation, sustainable housing and infrastructure, waste management, ecological protection, and restoration of coastal and waterfront areas,” he added.

The UN-Habitat Deputy Executive Director lauded the power of innovation, coupled with citizen and youth involvement, as a driver for transformative change.

“Innovation when applied in the right context is indeed a catalyst for change. Through science and innovation, communities will be able to better harness the blue economy potential for sustainable development,” he noted.

Michal also drew attention to the recent Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi, which committed to the blue economy and climate financing mechanisms.

He acknowledged Kenya’s role as the host of the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference in 2018, saying it laid the foundation for vital projects in this sphere.

The Blue Economy Innovation and Investment Summit, which featured panel discussions, innovative exhibitions, and even dance performances amidst the rain, successfully highlighted the potential and importance of innovation, sustainable development, and youth engagement in the blue economy.

As the summit came to a close, the focus on innovation, coupled with the unwavering commitment of the youth and global partners, left a lasting impression on attendees, promising a brighter and more sustainable future in Kenya and beyond.

The heavy downpour that characterized the final day was a poignant reminder of the resilience required in the face of environmental challenges.

It highlighted the urgency of sustainable practices to mitigate the effects of climate change on coastal regions.

The event’s ability to continue despite adverse weather served as a testament to the unwavering commitment to the blue economy’s cause.

The downpour may have marked the end of the summit, but it also symbolized the resilience and determination that will drive the blue economy forward, rain or shine.