Nairobi — Eleven Heads of States are among 180 delegations expected in Nairobi next week as Kenya's inaugural Blue Economy Summit kicks off.
Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma said on Tuesday over 11,000 delegates have already confirmed participation at the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference set to commence Monday, exceeding an earlier target of 6,000 delegates.
"This is truly a global conference. One hundred and eighty countries have already confirmed attendance out of which 11 delegations will be led at the Head of State level," she said.
"As at yesterday (Monday) we had a registration of 11,571 participants; clearly great enthusiasm from across the world," she pointed out.
Juma who spoke when she met co-hosts and co-sponsors of the three-day event expressed gratitude for support received towards hosting of the conference whose Sh800 million budget is now fully funded.
"Our co-hosts and co-sponsors are one of the main reasons why I can say with great confidence that Kenya is ready to welcome the world to Nairobi and the conference is destined to be a great success," she pointed out.
Canada and Japan will be co-hosting the event with Kenya having each contributed Sh300 million.
Qatar and Norway have each contributed Sh50 million with the United Kingdom providing Sh33 million. China has contributed Sh20 million with Oman, Portugal, and Ireland donating Sh10 million each.
Other countries that have made contributions are Sudan (Sh5 million), South Africa (Sh8 million), Nigeria (Sh2.5 million), Fiji (Sh500,000) and France (Sh300,000).
The Ocean Foundation, European Union, and African Export-Import Bank (AfriEXIM Bank) have each contributed Sh150 million, Sh25 million, and Sh5 million.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have each made Sh10 million funding available.
The Kenya Commercial Bank and Capital Markets Authority have provided Sh5 million and Sh1 million respectively with the University of Nairobi and Kenya Tourism Board expected to provide non-monetary support.
Among foreign leaders expected to attend the conference are Seychelles President Danny Faure who was last week named the African Union champion for the Blue Economy.
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.
According to the Director General of the conference's Organising Committee, Ambassador Ben Ogutu, over 50 ministers have confirmed attendance for the three-day event.
"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 last 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.
In the build-up to the conference, President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday unveiled the Kenya Coast Guard Service, a newly formed security contingent tasked with protecting Kenya's territorial waters.
The service stationed at Liwatoni in Mombasa is seen as critical to ongoing efforts to revitalize Kenya's blue economy which currently contributes a mere 2.5 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product.
Estimates show that the country currently loses Sh10 billion annually as a result of illegal fishing.
During the launch of the Coast Guard, President Kenyatta directed the repossessing of public fish landing sites in the Indian oceans, Lake Victoria, and Turkana illegally acquired by private individuals.
Kenyatta gave the State Department of Fisheries and the National Lands Commission until March next year to recover grabbed landing sites even as he signed two Executive Orders establishing Kenya Fisheries Corporation and Bandari Maritime Academy.
"For too long we have experienced multiple problems with marine security including illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by foreign trawlers, smuggling of contraband goods, degradation of marine ecosystems through discharge of oil, toxic waste dumping and the destruction of coral reefs and coastal forests," the Head of State said.
"The Coast Guard will ensure that our ocean will no longer be used by drug and human traffickers, illegal arms dealers and illegal fishing vessels. It will guard against exploitation of our natural resources by foreign countries and ensure that never again will a foreign vessel steal our fish," he said.
Kenyatta announced plans to harness the potential of coastal and inland waters which cover about 222,950 square kilometres by establishing transhipment and logistics hubs in Mombasa and Lamu creating some 10,000 jobs by 2022.
"We will create a destination port for cruise ships, establish world-class training facilities in maritime studies, have a fully-fledged and operational national shipping line by urgently reviving the Kenya National Shipping Line," said the President.
Deputy President William Ruto who accompanied Kenyatta to the launch of the Coast Guard described the commitment by the government as a major step in transforming Kenya's economy.