Nairobi — Kenya has welcomed the appointment of Seychelles President Danny Faure as the African Union champion for the Blue Economy.
Faure was appointed during the just concluded 11th Extraordinary Session of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma on Sunday commended President Faure for leading efforts to maximise the potential of the blue economy.
As part of his commitment towards a sustainable Blue Economy, the Seychelles leader issued the first blue bond last week.
He is among foreign leaders that have confirmed participation in Kenya's inaugural Sustainable Blue Economy Conference kicking off on November 26.
According to the Director General of the conference's Organising Committee, Ambassador Ben Ogutu, about 10 foreign leaders and over 59 ministers have confirmed attendance for the three-day event to be held at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre.
Others are Namibia's Hage Geingob, Uganda's Yoweri Museveni, Congo's Sassou Nguesso, Somali's Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, and Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama.
"These matters of Blue Economy have got to have political goodwill and commitment to drive the process forward. The attendance of these leaders is actually a very strong statement from the leaders," he said.
Ogutu told editors on Thursday that experts and scientists will also be attending the conference which Kenya will be co-hosting with Canada and Japan.
"We've invited luminaries in terms of speakers and experts including the Under-Secretary-General and Special Envoy for the Oceans on the United Nations, the Secretary-General of the African Ship-owners Association, as well as Professors," he indicated.
Ogutu said a number of side events have been lined up including in the areas of climate and sustainable energy.
"One of the side events will be organised by the African Union Commission in conjunction with United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). The event will focus on what strategies we have in relation with maritime security," he pointed out.
Mayors and governors of sea facing cities are also expected to attend the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference.
Canada and Japan have pledged funding for the conference to the tune of Sh300 million each, Canada's support entailing a Sh100 million non-monetary contribution.
Kenya will be seeking new partnerships in harnessing the potential of its Blue Economy while addressing emerging challenges including development of a comprehensive response to ocean health during the blue economy conference.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has in the build-up to the conference engaged in intense lobbying to have countries with which Kenya has diplomatic ties with send delegations.
Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Amb Macharia Kamau recently announced most of the Sh800 million budget required to host the conference had be raised after Japan joined Canada as a co-host alongside Kenya.
South Africa, the United Kingdom, Norway, Portugal and Fiji have enlisted their support for the conference as co-sponsors.
"The biggest opportunity that can arise is the partnerships that will be built between business-to-business, the partnerships that will be built between government-to-government to enjoin themselves onto this challenge of maximizing the opportunities of the blue economy," Amb Kamau indicated in an earlier interview.
According to Kamau, delegates will also discuss the existential threat an increase in plastic waste in the ocean poses.
"Our conference is looking at the challenge of creating greater prosperity, the challenge of fighting poverty, the challenge of protecting the planet as we move forward and how we can bring these three together," he said.
Current estimates show about eight million metric tons of plastic are thrown into the ocean each year out of which 230,000 tons are micro-plastics.