This World Oceans Day, Celebrating Young People in Kenya’s Blue Economy

Ahead of World Oceans Day, young conservationists and business owners in Kenya’s blue economy discuss their passion for protecting the environment and the importance of sustainable business practices.

young woman at beach

Celebrating the World’s Oceans 

Many of us have a personal connection to the ocean, with about 37% of the global population living within 62 miles of the coast. Whether you grew up near a coastline or are near one now, we collectively benefit from the ocean. On June 8, we celebrate World Oceans Day. These ecosystems provide food, regulate our climate and air, and provide essential jobs and livelihoods. 

Blue Economy in Kenya and Challenges Faced by Youth

What is the blue economy? It encompasses all economic activities related to oceans, seas, and coasts. The blue economy supports an estimated two million people in Kenya.

While blue economy enterprise activities have high potential for young people and their livelihoods, significant challenges exist in building these opportunities. Markets are immature, and value chains with high potential, like seaweed and mangroves, often require more time and systems building than traditional direct implementation or business development services. 

These high-potential value chains also require capital expenses, which youth often cannot access. Blue economy opportunities are often in hard-to-reach places, making training, access, language, and digital literacy more challenging.

Because of these challenges, many young people focus more on subsistence activities or traditional enterprises, such as managing a small market stall or driving a boda taxi, which amounts to subsistence living.

The BlueBiz Program: Empowering Youth for Success

BlueBiz, a program implemented by TechnoServe in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation, responds to youth’s challenges and constraints when starting and growing businesses in the blue economy.  TechnoServe is partnering with five local organizations to facilitate capacity-building and provide young people with a digital toolbox to enhance business opportunities in the blue economy. 

BlueBiz participants will receive training and support in:

  • skills development
  • access to financial solutions
  • links to markets
  • enhanced networks and leadership

The initiative aims to bolster micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises in counties on the Kenyan coast, enhancing their resilience for the future.  Eligible participants are young people committed to environmental sustainability, and BlueBiz has set a target for 70% of program participants to be women.

The infographic below shows a breakdown of the three major subsectors BlueBiz participants are working in:

  •  fisheries and aquaculture
  •  natural resources, environment, and circular economy
  • culture, tourism, and sports

Prior to the data collection process, respondents were randomly selected from registered participants of the BlueBiz program.

Kenya's blue economy infographic

Bahati: Protecting the Environment and Creating Economic Opportunities

Among current BlueBiz participants is Bahati Nguma Kalama, a young woman from Kilifi County, a coastal county north of Mombasa. Bahati is actively engaged in environmental conservation efforts in her community.

As a member of the Uyombo Youth Climate Action Self-Help Group, Bahati focuses on conserving and restoring mangroves, showing her commitment to preserving the local ecosystem.

“Through my participation in COBEC [a community based conservation organization] activities, l have enhanced skills in environmental conservation and sustainable business practices,” said Bahati.

She is motivated by the program’s goal of empowering individuals to protect the environment while creating economic opportunities. She dreams of becoming a successful businesswoman in Kilifi County and aims to leverage her skills and knowledge to benefit her community. 

“My desire to excel in business aligns with my broader vision of contributing positively to the local economy and supporting my peers in pursuing sustainable livelihoods.”

Young person at Uyumbo Beach after picking up plastic waste from the seashore.
Bahati at Uyumbo Beach after picking up plastic waste from the seashore. (TechnoServe)

Dorcas: Making Waves in the Fishing Industry

In Mombasa County, 29-year-old Dorcas Malogho impacts the local economy and fishing industry through her fish butchery. “My involvement with AWAK since 2020 in agri-business training shows my commitment to continuously improving skills and knowledge to better manage my business,” Dorcas shared. “I’ve positioned my success and growth in entrepreneurship through training and learning opportunities.” 

Dorcas is the mother of a young son and is active in the local community. She participates in groups such as the Bamburi Beach Management Unit, which connects community members whose livelihoods depend on fisheries, and the Coastal Women in Fisheries Group, a fisheries entrepreneurship association bringing together members from six counties within the coastal region. 

Dorcas underscores the importance of financial literacy in effectively managing and funding her business. “I’m setting myself up for long-term success as a business owner and community leader by leveraging the resources and guidance provided by the BlueBiz Program.” 

Young woman holding a fish in her fish butchery business.
Dorcas holding a fish in her fish butchery business. (TechnoServe)

Paul: Building a Better Future for His Family

Paul Katama, a 28-year-old devoted father and entrepreneur from Kilifi County, is optimistic that the BlueBiz Program will empower participants to enhance their livelihoods. He is a member of BICODE, a local organization that produces natural coconut-based products for sale.

He aspires to launch a briquette (biomass fuel made of compressed biomass material such as wood or coal dust) production enterprise, contributing to the local economy and securing a better future for his family. 

“I am motivated by the vision of establishing a sustainable business that not only benefits me but also positively impacts my community.”

Young man at his homestead in Vishakani village in Kilifi County.
Paul at his homestead in Vishakani village in Kilifi County. (TechnoServe)

The blue economy in Kenya’s coastal community provides an important source of livelihood for young people like Paul, Dorcas, and Bahati, who, in turn, work to protect the environments that sustain them. Supporting sustainable business practices and establishing pathways to dignified and fulfilling work will allow youth to continue benefiting from Kenya’s blue economy for years to come.