South Africa moves to unlock ‘blue economy’

21 July 2014

Teams of representatives from the government, business, labour, civil society and academia have begun working on plans to unlock the economic potential of South Africa’s oceans, in the first activation of a new initiative, dubbed Operation Phakisa, that was launched by President Jacob Zuma on the weekend.

Inspired by the “Big Fast Results” methodology successfully applied by Malaysia, Operation Phakisa – from the Sesotho word meaning “hurry up” – aims to fast-track the delivery of priorities outlined in the country’s National Development Plan.

Key to this will be a series of “laboratories”, or work sessions, in which teams of experts and stakeholders conduct intensive planning at a practical and detailed level in order to deliver complete, signed-off action plans for presentation to Cabinet.

The first implementation of Operation Phakisa will initially be led by the Department of Environmental Affairs, and focus on four priority sectors: marine transport and manufacturing, offshore oil and gas exploration, aquaculture, and marine protection services and governance.

“South Africa is uniquely bordered by the ocean on three sides,” President Zuma told delegates at the launch of the initiative at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban on Saturday. “With the inclusion of Prince Edward and Marion Islands in the southern ocean, the coastline is approximately 3 924 kilometres long.”

But the full economic potential of this vast marine space remains largely untapped. South Africa’s oceans, Zuma said, have the potential to contribute up to R177-billion to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), while creating up to 1-million new jobs, by 2033 – compared to R54-billion generated, and 316 000 jobs created, in 2010.

In the area of marine transport and manufacturing, Zuma said, the expert/stakeholder work sessions would look at exploiting South Africa’s location and expertise to increase its share of the global marine manufacturing market, including ship-building and repair, and oil rig repair and refurbishment. They would also look at capturing the benefits of growing volumes of cargo handling, and supporting activities such as storage and warehousing.

Regarding offshore oil and gas exploration, Zuma said the government was looking at creating a more enabling environment in order to increase the number of exploration wells drilled, while maximising the value captured for South Africa.

The government was also looking at enhancing growth in aquaculture, which was relatively underdeveloped in South Africa despite being an increasingly important contributor to food security globally.

At the same time, Zuma said, the government recognised the need to continuously balance the economic exploitation of the oceans with the maintenance of their environmental integrity.

This would be achieved by developing an institutional framework for the management of South Africa’s ocean space, and by improving the protection of South Africa’s oceans, particularly around critically endangered ecosystems.

Zuma said the expert/stakeholder teams – comprising over 180 representatives – had begun their work last week, and would spend next few weeks, until 15 August, “further developing these aspirations and ideas, setting ambitious targets, and formulating detailed delivery plans for accelerating delivery.

“These work sessions will help create transparency and help to remove bottlenecks and resolve the most critical challenges facing a sector,” Zuma said.

Once the plans had been completed and approved, Operation Phakisa would enter its first implementation phase, which would be rigorously monitored and measured against publicly stated targets.

“The people of South Africa deserve much better from all of us,” Zuma said. “Through Operation Phakisa and all our other key strategic interventions to achieve the goals of the National Development Plan, we must work tirelessly to move our country forward and build a better life for all, especially the poor and the working class.”

SAinfo reporter