By Shirley Wandera & Ian Kiptoo
The Blue Economy Innovation and Investment Summit 2023 is currently in full swing, showcasing a dynamic series of events aimed at fostering sustainable growth and environmental conservation in Mombasa. The summit, which began on November 26th at Sote Hub, kicked off with a Women in Blue Economy open forum. The primary objective of this forum is to equip female entrepreneurs with essential skills in three vital areas: effective business communication, market research, and linking potential funders, as well as securing funds for their enterprises.
The forum drew a diverse and vibrant group of women participants, representing organizations like Kuza Freezers, Baus Taka, Tunaweza Women with Disability CBO, as well as software developers and small business owners. The impact of this gathering was palpable, as Rees Viregwa from Tunaweza Women with Disability CBO shared, "I have greatly benefitted from the forum. It has highlighted the importance of marketing our businesses not only locally but also internationally." Her organization is involved in numerous impactful initiatives, including providing reusable sanitary towels to girls in Kenya and Tanzania and educating disabled women about environmental conservation and entrepreneurship.
The forum also shed light on the unique challenges faced by female entrepreneurs in the Coastal region, paving the way for transformation. Mumo, a fishmonger from Miritini, candidly shared her experience, stating, "Selling fish has its hurdles, at times they overstay which is crucial to my clients who prefer their fish fresh. This has a direct impact on my sales. I had not received any training before."
Martha Mghendi, the founder of Impact Entrepreneur and an angel investor, outlined the next steps. She mentioned that collaborative groups, in partnership with Sote Hub, would be established to serve as a platform for sharing vital information and building a more extensive community. "Now that we know the challenges faced by women entrepreneurs in Mombasa, we are prepared to offer support and bridge the gaps," she added.
The women entrepreneurs also shared their expectations for the one-week summit. Among them, Keziah Oloo from Smiley Girls Club expressed her anticipation, saying, "I expect to learn how to invest in the blue economy or how I can be able to merge my ideas into tapping the niche in the blue economy."
Meanwhile, on the second day of the summit, a beach cleanup event took place, reaffirming the commitment to preserving the coastal environment. This initiative, supported by various stakeholders, including Baus Taka, Sote Hub, and the County Government of Mombasa, emphasizes the importance of cleaning the beaches to protect the coastline and the delicate coral reefs, which are susceptible to plastic pollution. A total of 404 kgs of plastic waste was collected during the cleanup.
The event also placed a spotlight on eco-friendly transportation, with a focus on cycling. Participants embraced the idea of reducing carbon emissions and combating climate change through non-motorized transportation methods like cycling. Jonathan Alai of "Bike is Best" advocated for biking as an eco-friendly and healthy alternative for distances of less than 5km.
The Mombasa Walk Movement, known for promoting walking as a healthy practice, partnered with the initiative, highlighting the significance of a cleaner and more sustainable coastline in line with their mission for a healthier environment.
Government representatives from the County Government of Mombasa reiterated their commitment to the preservation of the coastal environment. Mr. Mohamed Osman, the CECM for Tourism, Culture, and Trade, expressed his pleasure at seeing youth involved in beach cleaning activities, emphasizing the city's aspiration to be a reputable tourist attraction.
The Blue Economy Innovation and Investment Summit serves as a reminder of the interconnectedness of economic development, environmental conservation, and human well-being. Healthy oceans support various sectors like fisheries, tourism, and transportation, making the blue economy central to Kenya's growth and development.
Beach cleanups are integral to the blue economy, as they protect the coastal environment and its biodiversity, attracting tourists and creating economic opportunities for local communities. Clean coastlines also support sustainable fishing practices, essential for the livelihoods of many residents.
Mombasa's future is intrinsically linked to its coastline and responsible resource utilization. Through actions like biking, beach cleanups, and collaboration among various stakeholders, the community is taking significant steps toward a more sustainable future that harmoniously balances economic growth and environmental conservation within the blue economy. The Blue Economy Innovation and Investment Summit will continue with various activities, culminating in the grand finale summit on 3rd November.