What you need to know:
- Her candidacy is based on five key pillars: multilateralism, diversity, collaboration, decarbonisation and solutions.
- She believes that the diversity agenda cannot be ignored because, at the moment, only two percent of the workforce in the maritime industry is female.
Next month, Ambassador Nancy Karigithu may become the first woman to lead the International Maritime Organization (IMO) as its secretary-general. With more than three decades’ experience working in the maritime sector, Kenya has thrown its weight behind her and urged the world to vote for her.
“I feel that I am ready to do the job,” she says. “I have been in the sector for almost 40 years, 38 years to be precise, and I have worked my way from the factory floor and the junior echelons of government and public life. I have worked within the region and within the country and also on the international sphere,and I feel that whatever I have been doing has prepared me for this.”
Nancy currently serves as special envoy and presidential advisor on maritime affairs and the blue economy. As the IMO prepares to elect new leaders at a summit in July, climate change and the role the shipping industry plays in global warming are key areas of concern.
At the moment, the shipping industry is responsible for at least 80 per cent of global trade, leaving behind a carbon footprint of 940 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). This represents at least three per cent of global total emission. At face value, this might look small, but experts say that if the shipping industry were a country, then it would be the sixth largest emitter in the world. For this reason, decarbonisation is a key deliverable for whoever is elected secretary-general, because they will be expected to ensure that the IMO’s goal of cutting these emissions by 50 per cent by the year 2050 is achieved.
“Climate change is a problem that affects every single part of the world and we must all be part of the solutions,” Nancy says. “Already there are steps being taken to reduce the industry’s carbon footprints such as off-shore power sources and some solar batteries that are currently being piloted in some parts of the world.”
Recently, the IMO held a consultative meeting in Kenya with its African stakeholders, where a concern was raised about why Africa has to join the decarbonisation agenda, yet the continent produces very little carbon emissions. Despite the concerns, the IMO has appealed for support and adoption of its decarbonisation strategy as it seeks to ensure that the transition is just and equitable.
“Championing the decarbonisation of the maritime sector, the transition within shipping industry is very important if we are going to play our role in reducing the climate impacts. We need a just transition, we cannot afford to leave anyone behind. We cannot have one half of the world being complaint and the other half not,” Nancy responded.
Her candidacy is based on five key pillars: multilateralism, diversity, collaboration, decarbonisation and solutions. As a woman, Nancy believes that the diversity agenda cannot be ignored because, at the moment, only two percent of the workforce in the maritime industry is female.
“One of the ways of bringing in diversity is through role modeling. You see it, and then you believe you can become it. So having strong role models is important. Mentoring young ladies and most importantly, catching them when they are young. Having people who do not understand the opportunities in the sector until they are much older in life like I did, I only learnt about the maritime sector in university – I knew there was an ocean, I knew there were ports, but I didn’t know how I could plug in.
That’s why I’m looking at catching them younger, especially those in STEM courses. Careers like marine engineering, if you know about it when younger, then maybe you could have paid more attention to the subjects that are needed to enable you become a marine engineer.
Maybe I could have been a ship captain myself. But I didn’t pay attention to mathematics because for me it was a nuisance subject because maybe of the way it was taught to me.” Kenya is among seven countries that have fielded candidates for the top seat at the maritime organisation. The election is expected to be held on July 18 at the IMO headquarters.