South Africa boasts of an incredible coastline that stretches over 3 000 km, the third longest of any African state. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Indian Ocean to the east. This ideal geopolitical position makes the country a strategic waypoint on one of the world’s major shipping routes.

More than 95% of South African trade (by volume) is moved by sea through the country’s eight commercial ports, making South Africa one of the top 12 sea-trading nations. Durban Port, on the Indian Ocean, remains the busiest in Africa and is the largest container facility in the Southern Africa. Our commercial ports handle cargo such as mineral bulk, break bulk, agricultural, containers, automotive, oil and gas. It is estimated that close to 80% of global trade is done through the sea with an estimated annual traffic of 30 000 vessels moving through South Africa’s waters. Although these are significant numbers, it is estimated that only 0.3% of global carrying capacity is currently controlled by South African companies.

Even though there is a lot of economic and recreational activity happening on and around our shores, our ocean economy isn’t flourishing as it should.

The upcoming Ocean Economy Skills Summit 2021, aptly themed, “Transformation through Active Participation”, brought to you by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) in collaboration with the Transport Education Training Authority (TETA) and other strategic partners, is an excellent opportunity to not only unlock the potential of this sector but enhance multi-partner relationships and collectively deliver against the goals of the NDP 2030, which identifies the ocean economy as one of the industries that can contribute to unlocking the country’s economic growth, help eliminate poverty, and reduce unemployment.

Mrs Maphefo Anno-Frempong, TETA CEO says, “We are excited to be at the heart of such a great initiative that aims to engage the industry as a whole and come out with tangible solutions to implement for the benefit of our country, economy and the youth. This initiative will expand our education sector. Basic education, CET colleges, TVET colleges, and Universities will all benefit from new courses, new curricula and professional development. Cross-sector skills development and the transferable and exportable skills that stem from the growth of our ocean economy will also stimulate vastly diverse industries. I see the young learners of today, building the sustainable enterprises of tomorrow.” According to experts, transport and manufacturing in the ocean economy can contribute R20 billion to R25 billion to GDP and 18,000 jobs by 2033, primarily driven by growth in cargo handling, with container volumes projected to increase by 6% per annum. Furthermore, the creation of the national ship registry can contribute further to the growth of this sector. Marine manufacturing can contribute between R22 billion and R36 billion to GDP and 22,000 to 38,000 jobs by 2033, mainly driven by repairs and refurbishment that could contribute about a 6% growth in both GDP and job creation.

To reach this vision South Africa needs a long-term skills development strategy for the ocean economy to increase employability through differentiated capacity building projects and programmes.

“The maritime industry has the potential to be a major piece in our mission to eradicate unemployment, poverty, and inequality in South Africa. Putting skills in the hands of South Africans is the key to unlocking the vast economic potential of our oceans for our people and for our country,” says the Honourable Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Dr Blade Nzimande.

The Ocean Economy Skills Summit 2021 will focus on:

  • creating awareness and engendering interest in the blue economy, especially among previously excluded communities to participate meaningfully in the maritime industry;
  • establishing a community of practice which consists of academics, industry partners, and critical stakeholders to create a collective learning space to share knowledge;
  • exploring the economics of the maritime industry and opportunities that exist to alleviate poverty through job creation and enterprise development;
  • providing thought leadership in maritime skills development through research, dialogue, and publications to contribute to the global maritime body of knowledge;
  • creating capacity in the system for continuous professional development to deliver on the skills mandate;
  • exploring the role of education institutions in training, innovation, research and skills development.

This inaugural summit sets the tone for the achievement of the vision of creating a lasting African legacy within the ocean economy through skills development and entrepreneurship.