OCEANS ECONOMY

Indian Ocean gateway

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At the official launch of Operation Phakisa in Durban last year, President Jacob Zuma brought to light the fact that our oceans have the potential to contribute up to R177 billion to the Gross Domestic Product and create just over one million jobs by 2033.

Unlocking our ocean economy in light of these figures comes as a welcome and obvious piece of the puzzle when looking at the goals of the National Development Plan (NDP). As one of our cardinal ports, Durban remains a key player in the maritime industry and coupled with the potential of the newly established Dube Tradeport, it remains one of our most valuable trade assets.

Operation Phakisa has brought together teams from government, labour, business, academia and other sectors which focuses on marine transport and manufacturing, offshore oil and gas exploration, aquaculture, as well as marine protection services and ocean governance.

Given Durban Port’s prime position, a number of seminars and discussions are coming to light to explore the importance of the trade hub and how it can be aligned to other national imperatives such as the NDP.

In February 2015, the Economic Development and Growth in eThekwini (EDGE) Port and Logistics Seminar was held at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban. The aim of the session was to look at the interface between the Port of Durban and businesses in eThekwini and to investigate how the port can be an enabler of business, while also focusing on port efficiency and best practice.

Programme Manager for the Maritime and Logistics sector at eThekwini, Nomalanga Sokhela, told Service “the objective of the Ports Seminar was to create a dialogue on port logistics looking at where we are and aligning or adapting to government’s new way of doing business, such as fast tracking economic imperatives namely the alignment, decision-making and reduction of red tape around key strategic economic development issues.”

She says what makes Durban Port such an ideal candidate to benefit through Operation Phakisa is the fact that it is the largest port in the country and the largest containment movement to Gauteng and therefore it plays a key role in the economy. According to her, Durban has the least logistics cost to Gauteng.

Another benefit she mentions is ship repair and boat building, which has historically been strong but has fallen into disrepair. “Operation Phakisa will allow the regain of market share by the ship/boat building and ship repair industries, which have been in decline for several years. This will create a major need for the employment of unskilled/semi skilled/skilled staff as the processes are very labour intensive. It will also create confidence in the local and regional industries to invest in these activities,” she says.

As Sokhela explains, eThekwini uses platforms such as the Maritime Business Organisation; Port Liaison Committee; Port Committee of the Chamber of Commerce; eThekwini Maritime Cluster; Labour Forum (through Port Consultative Committee); and eThekwini Wide Community Participation Forum (representative of all organisation included civic/labour/religions) as well as the sub forum dealing with SIP2.

In terms of how Operation Phakisa will drive industrialisation in the area, Sokhela says by improving eThekwini’s competiveness through the improvement of infrastructure and equipment, it will lead to improved productivity and job creation. “Ship building and ship repair will create demands for products such as steel plates and other services (mechanical and electrical services), increasing the value chain and the multiplier effects down-stream into the eThekwini economy as well as into the provincial and national economy.

“This project will broaden the industrialisation base of eThekwini as new industries develop, improving the competitive edge of Durban’s industries through improved efficiencies, increased technology transfers and business processing. Mariculture will also broaden the economic base as this is a large unexploited activity in Durban. eThekwini’s industrial needs are based primarily in the skills base in manufacturing and can absorb large amounts of semi-skilled and unskilled labour, so manufacturing is one area eThekwini wishes to promote.” she says.

Looking at challenges, Sokhela says the biggest one they currently face is to support the Transnet initiatives to ‘reduce the total cost of logistics’ and to optimise efficiencies to ensure great volumes of throughput at the lowest cost which will attract more volume to the port of Durban.

She also points out that the offshore environment is protected and covered under one of the Operation Phakisa pillars, namely the Marine Protected Areas. “Any new land-based activity is required to conform with the legislation such as EIA’s and land use planning, which will balance the need and desirability for sustainable economic projects,” she says.

Harvesting our oceans has become big business and today we find the Blue Economy as an important focal point in various government departments. In May 2015, International Relations and Cooperation Deputy Minister, Nomaindiya Mfeketo, spoke at the First Indian Ocean Rim Association  (IORA) Blue Economy Core Group Workshop entitled: ‘Promoting Fisheries & Aquaculture and Maritime Safety & Security Co-operation in the Indian Ocean Region’ in Durban.

The vision of the initiating partners was to create an apex Pan-Indian Ocean Forum, in order to promote sustainable growth and balanced development through economic dialogue and co-operation. “The ocean is central to human survival; it provides humanity with a natural barrier, providing food security and nutrition, as well as climate regulation. For centuries, lives and livelihoods have been entirely dependent on the ocean for food, recreation, transport and economic transaction. Indeed, the time is here to maximise the benefit from these facets of our oceanic resources. In addition to its strategic significance, the Indian Ocean is full of natural resources, making it an obvious natural attraction not only for regional players but for dialogue partners such as the US and China as well,” she says.

With South Africa due to chair IORA from 2017 to 2019, it will seek to build on the successive leadership of India, Australia and Indonesia, as preceding chairs. “It is patent that the ocean economy or blue economy is the future of the IORA wherein marine economic activity is emerging as a common source of growth, innovation and job creation for the Indian Ocean region. The blue economy offers a model of development that is ocean-based, rather than solely land based, and better suited to the challenges and opportunities of Indian Ocean Rim economies. It highlights the role biodiversity (including marine life and ecosystems) plays in supporting marine economic activity and in enhancing food security.

“In this context, at a domestic level, South Africa has its own strategy, which was launched by our President in October 2014, for the ocean economy, as encapsulated in Operation Phakisa, spanning the priorities of marine manufacturing and marine transport, aquaculture, offshore oil and gas exploration, as well as marine protection and governance. We aim to optimise this convergence of the domestic priorities and the IORA priorities as an area of high value potential,” she says.

Mfeketo further highlights that Africa, and Africa’s development, is undoubtedly and inextricably linked to developments in the Indian Ocean, with the entire eastern and southern seaboards of the continent bordering on the Indian Ocean. South Africa’s key focus areas for its chairmanship will be undertaken in partnership with the African members of IORA. South Africa and SADC’s strategy with respect to the Indian Ocean region is embedded in the African Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS), a multidimensional approach and perspective on maritime security, governance, and Africa’s seaborne development potential.

“Not only did heads of state and governments adopt Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy and Plan of Action at the 22nd Summit in January 2014, but additionally, Africa’s leaders declared 2015 to 2025 as the ‘Decade of African Seas and Oceans’, giving us a clear continental framework,” Mfeketo concludes.

 

 

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