NDEMO: Blue economy conference would have been more inclusive with better communication - Daily Nation

Blue economy conference would have been more inclusive with better communication

Monday December 3 2018

By BITANGE NDEMO
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The first ever Sustainable Blue Economy Conference closed in Nairobi last week.

More than 4,000 delegates converged in Nairobi to learn how to build a ''blue economy'', which simply refers to the exploitation and preservation of the marine environment.

The conference came at a time when new innovations, scientific advances and emerging best practices are enabling the exploitation of ocean resources while conserving it for posterity.

This generalisation, however, is true for almost everywhere else except in Africa because of the communication system used.

POOR COMMUNICATION

Despite the conference coverage being excellent, it failed to explain the concept of blue economy in such a way that the common person can understand and internalise, yet to make it sustainable, the concept must be understood by the ordinary person.

The blue economy is an important endeavour that can create employment and reduce poverty. But it is still far from comprehension in Africa due to the slow pace at which we are embracing the contemporary means of mass communication.

Here is a classic example explaining the disconnect between African means of communication and contemporary mass media. In 2015, two music groups – Sauti Sol and Amos and Josh sang the song ''Nerea''. Basically, Amos was pleading with Nerea not to abort his child:

Nakuomba Nerea, Usitoe mimba yangu we, (I beg you Nerea, don’t abort my child)

Mungu akileta, mtoto, Analeta saa ni yake, (When God brings a child, He does in his time)

Mlete nitamlea, Usitoe mimba yangu we, (Bring I take care, Don’t abort my child)

Mungu akileta mtoto, Analeta sahani yake, (When God brings a child, He does in his time)

Huenda akawa Mandela, Mkombozi wa taifa, (May be the Child could be a Mandela, the saviour of the nation)

Nakuomba Nerea, Usitoe mimba yangu we, (I beg you Nerea, don’t abort my child)

Mungu akileta, mtoto, Analeta saa ni yake, (When God brings a child, He does in his time)

Mlete nitamlea, Usitoe mimba yangu we, (Bring I take care, Don’t abort my child)

Mungu akileta mtoto, Analeta sahani yake, (When God brings a child, He does in his time)

Huenda akawa Mandela, Mkombozi wa taifa, (May be the Child could be a Mandela, the saviour of the the Nation) …

The release of this song provoked an intense debate about abortion in the media and in other circles.

Earlier, the Church and other anti-abortion Nongovernmental Organisations had always tried to start such a discussion but no one paid attention, nor did the issue become as emotional as it has become whenever the song is played. The debate has remained intense in the public domain simply because the communication was patently African in nature.

As my friend, Joyce Nyairo, would say, the African people will not buy into an idea until they begin to name their children after it or develop songs about it.

The developing world needed the blue economy conference more than its co-sponsors Canada and Japan.

We perhaps should have coined a song with such lyrics: Maji, Maji ni uhai (Water, water is life), Maji ni uchumi wa kutumia (Water is our economy to exploit) Tulinde mto mnara yetu (Let’s protect our water towers), Tulinde misitu yetu (Let’s protect our forests), Tusitupe taka taka baharini, ziwani na mitoni (Let’s not pollute our Oceans, lakes and rivers).

With such lyrics, we would have simplified a complex concept for Kenyans at large to comprehend and begin to sustainably exploit and conserve the ocean resources.

It would have also helped planners to begin the discourse around the demand and supply of water.

With consumption of fish in excess of 800 thousand tones against a production capacity of 200 thousand tones, investors would perhaps have seen the opportunity to divert investments from worthless, replicative enterprises to more lucrative marine resources.

LEFT BEHIND

My own observations of people perusing through the newspaper headlines on the blue economy revealed that not everybody was aligned.

I noted with dismay as some readers wondered loudly: ''What is this blue economy thing?''

In my view, the organisers of the conference were led by wrong assumptions that the World being a global village, everybody will understand this noble concept and that it would enable us to realise some of the Sustainable Development Goals.
They were wrong, because we continue to underestimate the extent to which colonisation still slants African thinking.

Whilst distorted mass media messages would want everything to be understood from the global-village perspective, folk media distances the people from key issues so that until the gap is narrowed, development will continue to be an abstract concept for some more years to come.

The gap was evident in some of the speakers who seemed detached from the subject they were presenting. They lacked passion and the necessary emotion to give the concept the impetus it needed to change the masses.

Such displays do not auger well in this very important subject that threatens the future in which there will be more plastics in the oceans than fish.

In Kenya, the water towers are already threatened by encroachment. If urgent steps are not taken, important economic regions such as the Mara will be decimated, along with the animal kingdom that remains the pillar of our economic prosperity.

Let’s recognise that despite the expansion of contemporary media, African communication systems, sometimes referred to as indigenous media, oral media, or folk media, still exist more powerfully than we think.

If we want development, we must go back to our roots and embrace forms of communication that are more aligned to our culture, as they would be more effective in precipitating debate and useful comprehension.

The writer is an associate professor at the University of Nairobi’s School of Business. Twitter: @bantigito