Workshop explores ocean economy in the Indian Ocean Region

July 12th, 2018, Published in Articles: PositionIT, Featured: PositionIT

The South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) hosted a workshop during April under the Blue Economy theme titled “Sea Change: Socio-Economic and Sustainability Goals on National Ocean Strategies”.

The event took place on 10 April 2018 at the SAIIA head office in Johannesburg and was attended by local and international participants from government, civil society and academia.

The workshop was organised to further the discussion surrounding the current international drive of increasing industrialisation of the ocean, alongside the recognition of the need for a healthy ocean ecosystem. Discussions aimed to explore national efforts to address socio-economic and sustainability concerns simultaneously in the context of global commitments under SDG 14: Life Below Water.

The opening statement was given by the Norwegian Ambassador to South Africa, Trine Skymoen, in which she highlighted Norway’s dependence on the ocean for its economic development; how its national ocean strategy emphasises sustainability and the environment; their use of marine spatial planning in managing their ocean space; the need for collaboration between countries and international institutions; and South Africa and Norway’s engagement over many years.

This was followed by sessions on regional perspectives on the ocean economy, with national ocean economy programmes as case studies for what is happening in Africa (South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania); an open session for presentations and input by civil society and academia; and ended with a discussion session.

Speakers included Dr Gatot Gunawan, Dr Kaiser Gonçalves de Souza and Prof. Ken Findlay. Dr Gunawan provided a summary of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and the various Blue Economy-focused workshops and meetings held within IORA to date. Dr Gonçalves de Souza indicated that the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UN ECA) is developing an atlas on Blue Economy for Africa, which is expected to be available at the end of 2018. Prof. Findlay (Cape Peninsula University of Technology) presented on the terminology surrounding oceans and blue economies, the need for a more defined definition surrounding this and how it fits into the discussion on marine ecosystem services.

While looking at the development of ocean economies from different perspectives, the three country case studies showed the need for similar information, skills and capacity. This, and other discussions within the workshop, highlighted the need to strengthen information sharing within the region with a proposal that a clearing house for information (events, programmes, data) on the ocean economy be established.

At the 17th IORA Council of Ministers and Related Meetings held in Durban in 2017, where South Africa took over as chair of IORA, a decision was taken to establish a Working Group on the Blue Economy, as well as a Working Group on Maritime Safety and Security. Currently, terms of reference are being developed for these working groups. The IORA Action Plan 2017-2021 also lists the strengthening of the Indian Ocean Rim Academic Group (IORAG) as a short-term goal.

These initiatives could become a good first step in enhancing the IORA’s role as a platform for capacity building, knowledge transfer and collaboration on marine and maritime themes within the region.

Nicole du Plessis, SAEON, Tel 021 402-3416, aora.ag.sa@gmail.com