Q&A with Flamingo’s Director of Sustainability: Transparency key to incentivizing private sector participation

Richard Fox is the Sustainability Director for Flamingo Horticulture and member of the Kenya 2030 WRG Governing Board. He serves as the immediate past Chairman of the Kenya Flower Council, the Chairman of Lake Naivasha Growers Group, and a trustee of Imarisha Naivasha, a pioneering multi-stakeholder forum set up by the Kenyan government to oversee a coordinated landscape approach to long term sustainable development in the Naivasha basin, the hub of Kenya’s floriculture industry.

This past April, he was elected as President of Union Fleurs, the international flower trade association after a four-year tenure as Vice-President.

Following Richard’s participation in the 2030 WRG Webinar Series event focused on Kenya – you can access the recording here – we sat down with Richard to explore in more depth some of the topics he touched upon during the webinar.

Kenya 2030 WRG: What is your assessment of public-private-civil society collaboration in Kenya? How has it evolved since you started working in this space?

RF: The framework for public-private-people collaboration is well established in Kenya, however this is a relatively recent development. The constitution promulgated in 2010 requires community-wide participation in the formulation of development opportunities and strategies, and the government has been active in encouraging the private sector to partner with them to deliver opportunities for national development.

One area where this collaboration is not only very prevalent but has proven to be extremely successful is river basin management. Here, public-private-partnership (PPP) models have recorded significant successes in the last 10 years.

I believe that this is in part because river basins are a defined area where stakeholders who rely on water resources – public, private and people – have an interest in how these resources are managed to ensure reliability of supply and long term sustainability.

Looking ahead there is a need – and an opportunity – to evolve and adapt these models to other sectors.

Kenya 2030 WRG: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing sustainable water management in Kenya at the moment?

In Kenya we have comprehensive water laws but enforcement is weak. As a consequence, decisions around water allocation and permit renewals lack transparency and without this the private sector is reluctant to embrace PPP partnerships.

There is an historical mindset that water management is solely a government responsibility, which translates into a reluctance on the part of both the public and private sectors to engage in more collaborative structures.

The responsibility for planning and development of water resources needs to be centrally managed, because resource availability and the demand on that resource do not necessarily share the same geographical or administrative boundaries.  The exploitation of national resources needs to maximized for the benefit of all, and equitable distribution and transparent allocation are key to this process

A lack of transparency, meanwhile, creates uncertainty for business, and encourages businesses to be inward looking that is antithetical to collaborative and sustainable resource management. This is among the biggest challenges we currently face in Kenya, but one where multi-stakeholder coordination can bring much added value by improving transparency and accountability.

Kenya 2030 WRG: In your experience, what incentives are most effective to encourage participation and investment in sustainable water management in the private sector?

RF: For the private sector, sustainable water management has two components. The first is inside the fence where a user can improve its efficiencies in water use and disposal, and which offers a direct cost saving opportunity. The second is outside the fence, where the water-user needs to understand the impact of its activities on water availability to other stakeholders and to the security of the supply.

There is no reason why this cannot be replicable in other industries and water catchment areas.

Kenya 2030 WRG: What opportunities exist for private sector actors? How can Kenya 2030 WRG best support the private sector to leverage these opportunities?

It is important for government to recognize the success already achieved in the multi-stakeholder platforms that have been set up, and to continue to support them financially. The participation of the private sector in existing alliances and partnership organizations is evidence that business sees the value of them. These structures are replicable and adaptable to other catchments.

Kenya 2030 WRG is in a position to champion the engagement of the private sector as part of its focus on reducing the deficit of water availability predicted in 2030.

Accurate evaluation of water risks and transparency in resource management has the potential to maximize the opportunities for industrial and agricultural development in the country, create employment for Kenya’s young people and rehabilitate and protect our environment, safeguarding its productive capacity for future generations. And that is always good business!