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Operation Phakisa – the answer to South Africa’s economic woes?

Andrea RoyeppenThe Deputy Minister of International Relations, Nomaindya Mfeketo recently led a South African delegation to the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Conference hosted by Mauritius from 2-3 September 2015. The theme of this conference focused on the Blue Economy and discussed opportunities for cooperation around ocean energy, seaport and shipping, resource exploration, and aquaculture. As the next chair of the IORA (2017-2019), South Africa has successfully embedded itself in the area governed by the IORA. This is seen most visibly with its strong diplomatic engagement in the region. So what does membership mean for South Africa’s own blue economy ambitions outlined in Operation Phakisa?

The momentum around Operation Phakisa has grown since it was launched in October 2014. Based on the Malaysian model of Big Fast Results Methodology, Operation Phakisa offers an important opportunity for economic diversification at a challenging time for the South African economy. If employed as a strategic long term plan, the blue economy provides an alternative model of development that is well suited to our geographic positioning. It is one that should allow South Africa to take advantage of the important shipping route around the southern sea lanes and this region’s diverse marine endowments. It could possibly generate a GDP of R177 billion by 2033 and 600 000 jobs. Operation Phakisa outlines the following as areas of focus: marine transport, oil and gas exploration, aquaculture, marine protection and ocean governance and is linked to the implementation of the National Development Plan.

In fast tracking plans in Operation Phakisa, South Africa should pick up on examples of best practices from countries within the IORA. For example, Mauritius (a sister SADC member) has developed a community based seaweed farming project which is aimed at both empowering women in the community and generating alternative forms of income. A greater South African focus on encouraging multisectoral participation of women in the blue economy would align with the larger continental priorities outlined by African Union Chairperson, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, who described ‘women’ and ‘oceans’ as important weapons in the drive to industrialise Africa. The call for incorporation of women into the blue economy was echoed at the continent’s first conference on the Empowerment of African Women in Maritime held in Angola, earlier this year. In an industry dominated by males, South Africa has made some progress to include and support more women in the maritime sector for example, through the establishment of the South African Maritime Safety Authority’s Sisters of the Sea. This forum provides mentorship and support of South African women in the maritime industry.

Ensuring gender balanced participation in the implementation of Operation Phakisa is just one aspect of the multi-faceted approach that is needed to develop South Africa’s blue economy. While it might not be the only answer to boosting South Africa’s economy, Operation Phakisa is a useful strategy for national economic and social development. South Africa’s membership in the IORA should therefore be used to align its priority areas of Operation Phakisa with the agenda of the IORA and in doing so, foster greater cooperation based on the converging interests within the grouping.

Ms Andrea Royeppen is a Researcher at Institute for Global Dialogue associated with Unisa. Her views do not necessarily reflect those of the IGD, Unisa

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