By HENRY OWINO (Senior Science Correspondent)

Japan’s Government and United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) signed a financial deal to support Blue Economy in Africa countries. This is expected to benefit most of the fishing communities in Africa who highly depend on coral reef fisheries especially the Indian Ocean.

For instance, for nations from islands such as Comoros, Seychelles, Madagascar and Mauritius, including Kenya, fishing is one of their economic activity pillars.

(Left)Dr Gabriel Rugalema of FAO and (right)Mr Ryoichi Horie Japanese Ambassador to Kenya sealing the Blue Economy deal for Africa nations. Credit Oloo Janak, Kenya Correspondents Association

Japanese Ambassador to Kenya, His Excellency Mr Ryoichi Horie led Japanese while Dr Gabriel Rugalema, represented FAO in Kenya in the ceremony conducted at the Japan Embassy in Kenya.

According to Mr Horie, the time has come for Kenya to take full advantage of the huge potential of the fishing sector.

“Overall, the Blue Economy, as we refer to it these days, has the potential to greatly accelerate development along the entire Indian Ocean shoreline of the African continent, and beyond,” Mr Horie asserted.

The Japanese Ambassador revealed that the project initiated revolves around the FAO providing technical assistance, while the Government of Japan provides funding of 475 million JPY, equivalent to approximately US$4.5m.

The US$ 4.5m Blue Growth Initiative project will run for three years, funded by the Government of Japan.

“The successful implementation of this project will result in the creation of resilient coral fisheries communities,” Mr Horie advised.

According to FAO, the project estimates and targets hundreds of small-scale fishermen and other fisheries professionals not withstanding approximately 30,000 beneficiaries in total from the project.

This contribution by Japan to the Blue Economy in the region is attributed to the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 6), Nairobi Declaration 2018. Since then, it has marked the Blue Economy as one of the key elements of economic diversification.

The Declaration had major pillars with Pillar 1 aiming at “Promoting structural economic transformation through economic diversification and industrialization”.

And in terms of implementation, it was resolved that efforts should be made to: “Promote Africa blue ocean by enhancing sustainable use of marine resources, developing port facilities and facilitating marine transport”.

The Japanese Ambassador said it is for that spirit that the Government of Japan is committed to the contribution towards the Blue Economy project. He therefore emphasized that Japan is actualizing resolutions made at TICAD 6 in the Nairobi Declaration.

Left_Dr Gabriel Rugalema of FAO and (right)Mr Ryoichi Horie Japanese Ambassador to Kenya. Credit Oloo Janak, Kenya Correspondents Association

“I must also emphasize that this project is very closely aligned with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Government Big 4 Agenda, in the matter of Food Security,” Mr Horie emphasized.

Furthermore, this project also is in line with the theme of the forthcoming TICAD 7, (28-30 August, 2019) in Yokohama, Japan which is: “Advancing Africa’s development through people, technology and innovation”.

This is through developing the capacity of fishery communities as well as by utilizing digital and ICT technology to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU), among others.

This is the greatest contribution Japan has achieved towards development of the Blue Economy in Kenya so far.

However, prior to this, Japan had contributed about US$3m for the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference held in Nairobi 2018. Again it donated US$3m for provision of Patrol Motor Boats to the Maritime Police Unit.

Others include US$3milion for provision of Patrol Motor Boats for control of illegal fisheries and in addition, dispatch of Technical Experts for promotion of the marine fishery sector in Blue Economy development.

Japan’s Government is hopeful that all these contributions would lead to tangible results and reflected to people’s lives living along the coastlines of Kenya and other targeted countries.