AU endorses Kenya’s Nancy Karigithu for IMO top post
A Kenyan marine expert, Nancy Karigithu, is the only African candidate vying for the post of secretary-general of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in a seven candidates list published by a specialised UN Agency that regulates shipping last week.
Ms Karigithu, who has been endorsed by the African Union (AU) for the position, seeks to replace outgoing secretary-general Kitack Lim of the Republic of South Korea, whose term expires by end of this year.
Africa has not yet had the opportunity to occupy the post of IMO secretary-general since its establishment in 1958.
According to a press release issued by the UN following the March 31 deadline, seven IMO member states have each nominated a candidate including one European.
“The nominations received by the deadline set for receipt of nominations are Mr Moin Uddin Ahmed (Bangladesh), Mr Suat Hayri Aka (Turkey), Mr Arsenio Antonio Dominguez Velasco (Panama), Dr Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry (Dominica), Mrs Nancy Karigithu (Kenya), Ms Minna Kivimäki (Finland) and Mr Zhang Xiaojie (China),” read IMO statement.
The IMO Council at its 128th session held in December 2022 approved the procedures for holding the election of its secretary-general at the next session which will be held on July 18 at its headquarters.
The elected secretary-general will take office on January 1, 2024.
Kenya secured the endorsement of the AU for Ms Karigithu during a high-level coordination meeting held in Lusaka, Zambia, which placed Kenya’s leading maritime expert in a strong position.
If elected, Ms Karigithu will be the first African and first woman to hold the position in the international organisation dedicated to safety, security and environmental protection in the maritime industry.
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Ruto reaffirms her nomination
Kenyan President William Ruto last month reaffirmed her nomination for the position which plays a big role in the implementation of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“The nomination endorses the fact that climate change adaptation and the health of oceans the seas remain key pillars of Kenya’s foreign policy. The bid also demonstrates the country’s increasing active participation in multilateral diplomacy, which boosts its credentials as a leader in the promotion of the blue economy sustainable development,” Ruto said.
Ms Karigithu, who is the principal secretary and special envoy for maritime and blue economy in Kenya’s State Department for Shipping and Maritime, while announcing her candidacy at a Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) International’s annual conference in Geneva last month, expressed optimism other regions will support Africa and more so female leader.
“The time is right for a female secretary-general and I will be looking for support when the 40 members of the IMO council converge next year to pick the successor of Mr Lim,” she told delegates.
Karigithu’s career journey
Ms Karigithu has had a long career in the maritime industry, with appointments including director-general of Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA), state counsel in the office of Kenya’s Attorney-General, senior legal officer and subsequently assistant corporation secretary at the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA).
Under her watch after she was appointed principal secretary in the State Department of Shipping and maritime Affairs, she pushed for the passing of the country’s Merchant Shipping Act 2009 which gives KMA power to regulate the maritime sector and its service providers.
Ms Karigithu also helped Kenya gain entry into the IMO’s Whitelist, a coveted title that helps a country to train seafarers who can work in foreign-going vessels.
Read: EA ports expect more ships after drop in piracy cases in Indian Ocean
She played a key role in ensuring that IMO issued a formal notification to member states on the removal of Indian Ocean from the list of high-risk areas (HRA). This will position East African ports in better position to attract more business in the region.
The decision to remove the Indian Ocean from the list was communicated last week to the five largest global shipping industry associations which had suspended their operations for about a decade due to increased piracy cases along the route.
The impact of the communication means starting January 1, 2023, sea freight premium rates reduced and the region is now receiving more and large ships than before.
She has represented and several times led Kenya’s delegation to various international maritime meetings including the IMO, where her leadership resulted in her personal recognition and election as the vice chairman of the IMO’s Technical Cooperation Committee from 2009 to May 2015.
Currently, she sits on the governing council of the World Maritime University based in Malmo, Sweden and the board of governors for the IMO International Maritime Training Institute in Malta. She is also vice president for Africa’s International Maritime Satellite Organisation.