Blue economy between high-growth trade and sustainable stewardship of marine ecosystems: historical and sociological perspectives

Since the 2012 Rio Earth Summit, the blue economy has become a development paradigm that while promoting land-sea ecosystem’s productivity strongly emphasises preservation of oceans and coastline health. Generating the full economic potential of the land-sea interface via sustainable approaches falls in line with the fulfilment of the 14th United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goal of ensuring conservation of oceans, seas and marine resources. Furthermore, the UN recently launched the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), which highly encourages countries to expand their blue economies through technological innovations evolving in the so-called “net zero”. These international norms and standards will feature in the discussions that is going to be held at UN Ocean Conference in Nice in 2025.

These development goals call for a complex trade-off that entails the boosting of the blue trade so as to achieve technology-intensive high-growth of the ocean sector, while catering for environmental concerns affecting the coastal habitats, consisting of endangered species and providing important ecosystem services. On the one hand, countries like Kenya are exhorted to modernise the fishery sector and port and shipping infrastructure so as to undertake deep-see mining for Industry 4.0 and deep-sea exploration of biological material to promote pharmaceutical, cosmetics and biofuel industries. On the other hand, the harvesting of ocean resources is expected to be free of pollution and environmental degradation; fishing should not be over-exploitative; the use of renewable energy should be always privileged and the marine services and manufacturing should neither worsen the ecological crises pervading the globe nor negatively impact local populations’ food security, livelihoods, and cultural identities.

We call for research proposals that question this development model along research axes that may be either sociological and contemporary or historical.

Axis 1 – The Kenya coastline stretches along 600 km cutting across five counties: the main socio-economic activities undertaken are sea-based, such as fishing and tourism; the ports and shipping activities make up for an important part of the economy, as does agriculture, given that the coastal plains are between 5 and 10 km wide. The mangrove and other forest ecosystems are relevant natural resources providing paramount ecological services. The national government is determined in attaining a three-fold increase in blue economy sector, including in the carbon markets that can allegedly harness both financial and ecological benefit. How can the performance of the blue economy sector be analysed vis-à-vis the complex trade-off between high-growth, sustainable, and equitable development?

Axis 2 – Coastal spaces have been facing rapid and abrupt changes, not only in relation to climatic transformations, but also in relation to historical ecosystem processes that are hardly unequivocally attributed to either industrial development or natural degradation. Yet, colonial legacies have generally been acknowledged as pivotal in shaping a developmental model that, in the allocation of space and resources, prioritise Western-oriented systems and structures of society, at the expenses of alternative knowledge systems. Against this framework, historians of the Kenyan and of the Eastern African coastlines have had a keen interest in examining the alteration of hydrological systems and the geomorphology of the land-sea interface, seeking to singling out anthropogenic causes. What are the historical debates on ecology that over the past century have featured in the economic vision of the Kenyan coastal and marine ecosystems?

The French Institute for Research in Africa of Nairobi (IFRA-Nairobi) and Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) invite proposals to conduct research that fit in the two axes outlined above. Master’s students, PhD Candidates or Postdoctoral Researchers are all eligible to apply. IFRA and KMFRI will award to successful candidates research grants of €1500. The research will be carried out over the year 2024 and the findings and recommendations presented at IFRA-Nairobi in May 2025 and in Mombasa (at the Mombasa Festival Ocean) in June 2025.

We invite both sociological and historical research on the following topics that will be given priority:

  • Infrastructural investments and their impacts on livelihoods and natural habitats;
  • Policy strategy and investments on decarbonisation of shipping services;
  • Financialisation of mangrove forest conservation programs (REDD+);
  • Stakes of preservation of marine biodiversity;
  • Public policy and citizenry initiatives tackling plastic pollution;
  • Role of coastal indigenous knowledge in mariculture development and fisheries (Seaweed farming and usage; artisanal mud crab fisheries/fishing)

Important dates:

June 7: deadline to apply

June 14: selection of successful candidates

Application (in one PDF document) should be send to and should include:

CV of no more than 2 pages;

A cover letter of no more than 2 pages, including a summary of the project (in 10-15 lines) and of the candidate’s profile, their research interests (in the framework of the PhD project or the postdoc), their collaborations with local organisations;

A research project proposal of maximum 5 pages that includes how the candidate is approaching the question of the blue economy. The proposal shall be structured to include a literature review, a clear research question, the sources and data to be produced and collected, the methodology applied, details about the fieldwork specific location, the main expected outputs, a research plan and a budget accounting for the latter.

OpenEdition suggests that you cite this post as follows:
IFRA Nairobi (May 27, 2024). CALL FOR RESEARCH PROPOSALS. IFRA Nairobi. Retrieved July 16, 2024 from

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