Nancy Karigithu seeks to be first female and first African IMO Secretary General

By Elijah Odhiambo

With the tenure of the International Monetary Organisation (IMO) Secretary General Kitack Lim ending this year, Nancy Karigithu, currently Kenya’s Ambassador and Special Envoy for Shipping and Blue Economy, has been nominated to battle it out for his replacement even as the agency gears the process of searching for a successor.

Speaking at WISTA International’s annual conference in Geneva in October 27, 2022, Nancy Karigithu, announced her candidacy in the next election to be Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

“The time is right for a female Secretary-General, and I will be looking for support,’ she told delegates.

The elections for the Sec-Gen position will be held in July 2023 where 40 members of the IMO will choose the next leader.

Endorsements for the IMO Sec-Gen

Amb. Karigithu’s IMO candidacy has received endorsements from both Kenya’s President and the African Union.

According to a statement issued by the Kenyan State House Spokesperson Hussein Mohamed in November last year, President William Ruto exuded confidence in Ms. Karigithu, saying she would bring strong competencies and invaluable experience to the IMO which is a key pillar for the country’s foreign policy and East Africa at large.

“Amb. Karigithu will bring to the IMO strong competencies and invaluable experience in the management of global maritime and development of the oceans and blue economy that hold much promise for the international community,” read the statement in part.

The President also noted that Karigithu had also been endorsed for the position by the African Union early in the year during a meeting in Zambia due to her expertise in the sector.

“Kenya secured the endorsement of the African Union for Amb. Karigithu’s candidature during the High-Level Mid-Year Coordination Meeting in Lusaka, Zambia, in mid-July, 2022,” said the statement.

Apart from Kenya and the African Union, Ambassador Nancy Karigithu has also received support from the Center for Ocean Policy and Economics.

‘’The Center for Ocean Policy and Economics (COPE) is proud to announce its support for the Republic of Kenya’s Candidate for the post of Secretary General for the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization (IMO), Ambassador Nancy Karigithu,’ COPE said.

‘’Ambassador Karigithu would be the first female Secretary General of the IMO and the first from Africa, a remarkable and necessary milestone. COPE is therefore compelled to support this remarkable woman in her ambition to guide the International Maritime Organization as its next Secretary General.”

When asked what she’ll do if elected as the first woman to occupy the position, she said she “believes that a well-qualified, and experienced female Secretary General would serve as a strong pillar and mentor in propelling the career advancement of women in the sector, in line with IMO’s ideals in the Women in Development program.”

Education History

Mrs. Karigithu is a maritime lawyer holding a Bachelor’s Degree in Law from the University of Nairobi.

She also has a Diploma in Law from the Kenya School of Law and a Master’s Degree in International Maritime Law from the IMO-International Maritime Law institute, (IMLI), Malta.

Additionally, she has successfully completed other professional courses including the Short Course on Advanced Maritime Law, University of Southampton, UK, the Advanced Maritime Leaders Program (Singapore Maritime Academy) as well as the Advanced Management Program (Strathmore Business School). She is a Member of the Law Society of Kenya, the Institute of Directors as well as the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers.

Work Profile

Mrs. Karigithu is the former Principal Secretary, State Department for Shipping and Maritime in the Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing, Urban Development and Public Works.

Before her present appointment, Mrs. Karigithu was working as a short term legal expert for the European Union (EU) project Critical Maritime Routes, aimed at enhancing Maritime situational awareness in the Indian Ocean.

She was the Director General (DG) of Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) where she served for nine (9) years and currently sits on the Board of Governors of the World Maritime University (WMU), based in Malmo, Sweden.

She has a working experience of 30 years, 26 of them in the Maritime Industry.

Other previous work experience includes working as a Stint State Counsel in the Office of the Attorney General, Senior Legal Officer at the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) where she rose to the post of an acting Assistant Corporation Secretary.

She was also involved in the setting up and launch of the Association of Women in the Maritime Sector in Eastern & Southern Africa (WOMESA) where she served for two terms as a Chairperson and now sits on the governing council. WOMESA is a first regional body which brings together women professionals in the maritime sector of 26 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa.

She was instrumental in organizing the first ever Heads of Maritime Administrations and Ship Registrars Conference held in Mombasa, Kenya in October 2013, and which has since formed into the Association of Maritime Administration in Africa.

Mrs. Karigithu also organized the first National Maritime Conference which took place in February, 2015 and brought together key stakeholders of the International Maritime Industry to Kenya.

Recently, Mrs. Karigithu was feted and honored for honorary fellowship by the World Maritime University during the Graduation Ceremony which was held in 3rd November, 2019 in Malmo, Sweden because of her distinguished service in the maritime sector.


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