Leveraging the Blue Economy in Kenya for Inclusive and Sustainable Growth:  A Global South Perspective.


The concept of “Blue Economy” is usually linked to the promotion of economic growth, social inclusion and the preservation or improvement of livelihoods while ensuring environmental sustainability of the oceans and coastal areas.  Globally, this concept has not attained a universal meaning and it has been used in diverse ways.  The risk is that this concept might be identified with economic growth and environmental protection only.  At the same time little view(s) has been sought from the Global South as to what the Blue Economy is or should be. Yet Africa is one of the ‘Bluest’ continents.

Africa’s “Blue word” is made of vast lakes and rivers and an extensive ocean resource base.  Thirty-eight of the fifty-four African States are coastal States.  More than 90 per cent of Africa’s imports and exports are conducted by sea and some of the most strategic gateways for international trade are in Africa, underscoring the geopolitical importance of the region.

Among the African states, Kenya has one of the highest potentials in terms of ‘Blue Economy’. The strategic location along the Indian Ocean coast and her inland waters endows her with opportunities and potential for transforming her into a maritime economy. While the Blue Economy sector comprises an important facet to the national economy as the driver of 92 per cent of Kenya’s international trade, its enormous opportunities are yet to be harnessed and exploited.

Many donors have committed to support Kenya achieve its 2030 Vision Agenda with most of the aid funding being channeled towards major infrastructural projects and generally towards Africa’s economic and social development.  One of the major flag ship projects marked for the attainment of her economic goals is the multi-billion Lamu Port and Lamu-Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET) Project which is majorly being financed through Chinese aid and constructed by its multinational corporations.  By the end of 2018, China had invested over US$ 60 Billion in Africa for infrastructural projects including sea ports, a testament to the fact that the Global South has attracted a lot of interest from the East.

Yet, while the LAPSSET project is supposed to advance economic growth in the region, it has already been established that it has contributed to several risks affecting water quality, mangrove forest, fisheries, archaeological and historical cultural sites, land ownership, terrestrial and marine wildlife, transportation of cargo, especially oil and other induced risks, such as increase in the risk of HIV prevalence. Despite the immense negative impacts on the livelihoods of local communities that have and are likely to continue to occur there is no consensus on who is responsible for ESR mitigation in the Chinese ODF funded projects and there is even greater uncertainty on the government response to these issues.

It is against this background that my thesis will assess the extent to which social, economic and cultural rights risk being breached in the area where these projects are developed and what preventive or mitigating responses are necessary to effectively protect local communities while harnessing the benefits of the Blue Economy.  In doing so the thesis also aims at proposing a reconceptualization of the notion of Blue Economy that encompasses social, economic and cultural rights from a Global South perspective.

Institution: University of Nottingham

Supervisor: Anna Maria La Chimia

Area of study: Law