Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni has said his government has resorted to bribing people who invade wetlands, because forcefully evicting them would have negative political implications. The president, who was addressing the inaugural Sustainable Blue Economy conference in Kenya, listed soil erosion, population pressure, pollution, bad farming practices and the failure to enforce regulations because of politics, as the greatest challenges facing the blue economy.
‘‘We are trying to bribe our people who invaded the wetlands to get out. We give them money…it’s a type of bribe but it’s better than other crude methods, because we need votes” Museveni explained. ‘‘Our government has also embarked on a campaign to protect vegetation at least 200 meters to the lake shores or 50 meters to the river banks.’‘
The blue economy conference was attended by several leaders from the region including the presidents of Kenya, Mozambique and Somalia discussed ways of sustainably and profitably exploiting water resources. The Ugandan president added that industrialization is the best way of tackling environmental degradation, arguing that alternative employment must be found for people whose livelihoods destroy natural resources. ‘‘We must look at increasing electricity output and create jobs in industries. You will not stop forest encroachment for example by farmers if you do not offer them alternative employment,” he said.
The Blue Economy is an economic arena that depends on the benefits and values realized from the coastal and marine environment. Experts define the ‘Sustainable Blue Economy’ as a marine-based economy that provides social and economic benefits for current and future generations, restores, protects and maintains the diversity, productivity and resilience of marine ecosystems, and is based on clean technologies, renewable energy, and circular material flows. The Blue Economy is at the heart of a historic conference taking place in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, November 26 – 28, 2018.
Globally, the Blue Economy has an asset base of over $24 trillion. It is said to generate at least $2.5 trillion each year from the combination of fishing and aquaculture, shipping, tourism, and other activities. Coastal tourism alone is one of the fastest-growing marine based economic activities worldwide, estimated at £6bn to coral reef nations alone.
Water bodies such as the oceans, seas, rivers, lakes, marshes, and bays collectively hosts about 2.2 million plants species, diverse wildlife and other life-forms that represents over 50% of life on earth! These are the resources from where we derive food, medicines and livelihoods that drive socio-economic development globally.
The total “ocean asset base” of the Western Indian Ocean region including Comoros, France, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa and Tanzania is at least USD333.8 billion. The annual “Gross Marine Product – GMP” of the Western Indian Ocean region (equivalent to a country’s annual gross domestic product (GDP) – is at least USD20.8 billion.
In his Special Call to Participate, Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta said: “It is my conviction that the Blue Economy presents alternatives that can augment the achievement of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. “In this regard, the conference is expected to devote considerable attention to how oceans, seas, lakes and even rivers, can accelerate our collective quest for sustainable economic growth.”
Kenya has a share of about 2.4 Billion USD of this Western Indian Ocean economy with Coastal Tourism taking the largest share of about $1.5 billion annually. Compared to the annual GDP of about $60 billion for the country, this is only a contribution of four percent to the GDP. Kenya lies in the lucrative tuna belt. It is estimated that Kenya has 150,000 – 300, 000 Metric tons of fish in her expansive 200, 000 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
More efforts should be directed in investing in sustainable management and development of offshore tuna resources as part of the Kenya Governments’ blue economy agenda. “The ocean is fundamental to life on earth covering nearly three quarters of our planet. It produces more than half the oxygen that we breathe. “Yet our oceans are moving deeper into ecological crisis just at the moment when we need them more than ever,” Frederick Kwame, Regional Director WWF Africa.