The Indian Ocean provides a great maritime space and sea-lanes that connects the great economies of the West and East. The Indian Ocean is the third largest sea in the world, linking East, South, South East and West Asia, as well as linking Africa and Europe. It is the waterway that makes the Asian trading systems possible. These maritime spaces and sea-lanes are threatened by factors connecting Asia and the Pacific; key among them is the emergence of the pirates in Indonesian waters in the recent past. Although concerted military efforts led by the USA have made the sea-lanes safer, especially for navigation, Asia, which is a rising power, plays and increasingly important economic and geopolitical role, both at the global stage and in the Indo-Pacific blue economy. It goes without saying that the Indian Ocean provides the foundation for the trading systems that underpin Asia’s economic rise. With the rise of Asia, geopolitical power is fast shifting to the Indian Ocean, from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

The blue economy has great potential to contribute to higher and faster GDP growth in Kenya. Innovation and growth in the coastal, marine and maritime sector could deliver food, energy and transport, among other products and services, and could serve as a foundation for sustainable development in Kenya. Diversifying the country’s economy beyond land-based activities, with particular regard to its coastal, marine and maritime sector, is critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and delivering smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

The Indian Ocean Region needs effective maritime governance and maritime domain awareness by all littoral states. It needs soft-power geopolitical practices, together with strategic regional alliances. Dialogue between these states is always a good starting point. Prospective military Alliances, Military Training Assistance, Military Diplomatic Exchanges and Defense industry and Technological Transfer would also work to integrate the defense sector, effectively leading to a joint security mechanism, protecting the waterways. Integrated Intelligence Sharing and Integrated Space and Cyber Security Organizations are also measures that would support joint security strategies in the region. This paves way for the implementation of common cause missions for maintaining peace and order in the Indian Ocean Region.

Policy makers of all great nations, and East Africa countries with access to the Indian Ocean waters, ought to pay close attention to the Indian Ocean region. It is also vital to look at the importance of the Great connector that stretches from the Cape of Good Hope in the South, to the Gulf of Suez in the West, and the Strait of Malacca in the East, connecting the Middle East, Africa, Europe and the Americas. These strategic checkpoints are becoming increasingly packed with cargo ships, oil tankers and patrolling navy vessels.

This is the beginning of a series of articles that will provide reflections on the necessary policies that should be implemented, in order to enhance the blue economy, to ensure sustainable development and inclusive growth in Kenya and the Eastern Africa region. Through this series, we intend to provide a building block for further development of policies to support the blue economy in the larger East Africa region, and the development of international maritime laws.

By: Frank Singoey

MMS Advocates

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