Pretoria: 06 July 2021
Development of southern Africa’s maritime economic sector has no room for selfish, self-centred independent actors, and instead demands of all involved a sustained close collaboration in order to ensure not only the success of collective effort but also equity in shared benefits
This was the dominant theme of speakers in the maritime transport section of this year’s Southern Africa Transport Conference (SATC) inaugural virtual conference and exhibition that began on Monday (05 July) and ends at about lunchtime on Wednesday (07 July).
With South Africa’s Minister of Transport, Mr Fikile Mbalula having officially marked the start of the conference with an address, among keynote speakers on the maritime transport theme during Monday’s session were South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) acting Chief Executive Officer, Ms Tsepiso Taoana-Mashiloane, Mr Kholisile Mlambo of Mzansi Scuba Diving Academy, Mr Andrew Pike of Bownmans, Ms S Smith-Godfrey of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Dr Michael Ekow Manuel of the World Maritime University and Mr C Mlambo.
With a presentation titled: Partners in building a maritime nation Ms Taoana-Mashiloane outlined SAMSA’s critical role as the country’s State agency mandated with among other things, advancing South Africa’s maritime interests and the centrality of meaningful partnerships between the agency and other role players in the public and private sectors but also crucially, establishing and sustaininng links with others in the sub-region, continent as well as international institutions.
In a prerecorded presentation lasting about 17 minutes, Ms Taoana-Mashiloane said while the world might currently be faced with socio-economic woes largely brought about by the outbreak of the Covid-19 against which many countries continue to battle, current global economic studies also continue to project the African region positively as among those with prospects of high economic performance, and central to which is oceans transport, and by extension the maritime ecoomic sector.
Poised to play a critical role, she said; was the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (ACFTA) which commits countries in the region to remove tariffs on 90 per cent of goods and to progressively liberalise trade in services as well as address a host of other non-tariff barriers.
‘UNCTAD expects the Global maritime trade growth to return to positive trajectory in 2021 by expanding by 4.8%. Sustainable shipping, decarbonisation and ship pollution control remain priorities in 2021 (and) it is forecasted that the Sub-Saharan Africa area intra trade will double by 2030 and this will elevate the huge significance of a maritime transport system
“Britain, China, United States, France and the European Union have all launched initiatives to strengthen bilateral trade and investment relationships with Africa,” she indicated. However, for any of these developments to yield meaningful outcomes, maritime sector stakeholders and roleplayers needed to forge close relations and sustainable partnerships., she said.
Pointing to SAMSA’s own initiatives in this regard among which is its representative role for the country at International Maritime Organisation (IMO) as well as involvement and collaboration with similar institutions both on the Atlantic and Indian seaboards, the African Union and related institutions, she said: “The ability to leverage partner resources, subject matter expertise and innovation is a competitive advantage of a great partnership. Otherwise, trying to go it alone and strive to outshine others and to get all credit is not anyone’s interest.
“The 2050 African Maritime Integrated Strategy (AIMS) seeks to provide a broad framework for the protection and sustainable exploitation of the African maritime domain for wealth creation. Alongside, the African Maritime Charter (AMC) declares, articulates and advocates the implementation of harmonised maritime transport policies capable of promoting sustained growth and development of African Merchant Fleets as well as promote bilateral and multilateral cooperation among the maritime administrations of States Parties and their respective operational organizations in the field of maritime and inland waterways transport and port activities.
“In addition it seeks to also promote the funding, undertaking of research studies by national institutions that encourage the promotion and development of cooperation in maritime and inland waterways transport and port operations among States Parties and regions.
Domestically, according to Ms Toana-Mashiloane, South Africa’s positive response had included the launch of the Operation Phakisa (Oceans Economy) followed by the promulgation of the Comprehensive Maritime Transport Policy both to widen the scope for partnerships across sectors of the economy inclusive of identification of business investment opportunities, she added.
“As part of development efforts, we continue to engage and explore strategic partnership with the different industry players including local municipalities with the purpose of creating economic opportunities for local communities,”she said.
For her full presentation at the SATC Conference and Exhibition 2021, click on the video below.
Ubuntu – we are human only through the humanity of others
The theme was taken further by Sweden based World Maritime University representative, Dr Michael Ekow Manuel who described the subject of necessary partnership and collaborations in the sector as among the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Talking to a presentation themed: Fostering a partnership mindset; Governance and education; Dr Manuel said among targets of the UNSDGs was the enhancement of Global Partnership for Sustainable Development, “complemented by multi-stakeholder partnerships that mobilize and share knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources, to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in all countries, in particular developing countries.
Further, the target encompassed efforts to “encourage and promote effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships, building on the experience and resourcing strategies of partnership.
From a governance perspective, optimising key factors, he said; included “ethical behaviour, a problem-centric approach, stakeholder equity and voice, leadership with partnership skills, evaluation criteria, learning procress and ageements.” With regards education, Dr Manuel said it had to play a transformative role “in which people are engaged in a new way of seeing, thinking, learning and working….a new set of skils such as envisioning, critical thinking and reflection, dialogue and negotiation, collaboration and building partnerships.”
Quoting former South African President, the late Mr Nelson Mandela; Dr Manuel reflected that: “In Africa there is a concept known as ubuntu – the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others, that if we are to accomplish anything in this world it will in equal measure be due to the work and achievements of others.”
South Africa no longer the only sheriff in town
That notwithstanding, according to Bowmans’ head of ports, transport and logistics Mr Andrew Pike, it helped little in fostering strong partnerships and collaborations if some of the players in the southern African region failed to pull their weight, indicating further that South Africa, despite its numerous maritime related advantages, was nevertherless on the verge of fairing poorly compared with its oceans bordered peers and flanking countries both to the east, namely Mozambique, as well as to the west, notably Namibia.
South Africa’s competitiveness with its ports infrastructure and performance was noticeably waning, he said, citing a World Bank’s recent report that ranked the country lowest at 347 out of 351 countries world wide – and in fact, the lowest ranking of all African countries.
Closest home, Mr Pike said even with the outbreak of Covid-19 which hugely affected sea transport negatively right across the board, statistics indicated that Mozambique outperformed South Africa in terms of trade ships port calls, even increasing its tally from 1 927 in 2018 and 2 145 in 2019 to 2 019 in 2020. This was in contrast to South Africa suffering a drop in trade ships port calls from 8 510 in 2018 and 8 856 in 2019 to 7 836 in 2020.
A similar picture was gradually emerging on the Atlantic seaboard where Namibia was making strides both in terms of infrastruture investment as well as competitive performance to the benefit of the southern African region previously almost entirely dependent on South African ports.
According to Mr Pike, partnerships and collaboration were all good but all involved had to pull their weight. He intimated that South Africa would do herself a lot of good, and humble herself by realising that the country was “not the only sheriff in town.”