Since I started reporting on the maritime sector in the mid 1990’s, the industry has been complaining about the lack of recognition it receives from government. It has been one of the biggest and most constant gripes. At the beginning of the year when the African Union announced the maritime decade, it was clear that the landlocked mindset of the continent was shifting – and the South African government’s July launch of Operation Phakisa affirms that strategic thinking is taking place to develop the “blue economy”.
With the government’s emphasis on four distinct areas there are, of course, sectors of the maritime industry currently not receiving the same level of attention. A conversation with a stakeholder, however, revealed that the full spectrum of opportunities within the blue economy is being considered. He said that more details will be announced during the course of the coming months and that a document would be released highlighting the recommendations made by industry experts at the conclusion of the Ocean Lab sessions held in Durban.
With a probable second South African Maritime Industry Conference hosted by the South African Maritime Safety Authority due to be called before the end of the year, it seems likely that Operation Phakisa will take centre stage. One is not sure, however, to what extent the outcomes of the Ocean Labs will be set in stone and to what extent they will be flexible enough to accommodate further interrogation by other stakeholders omitted from the initial deliberations.
I am choosing to remain cautiously optimistic, but am not so naive as to believe that the naming of an important sounding strategy within government will necessarily provide the panacea that the industry is waiting for. Despite adopting a “quick fix” strategy from Malaysia to churn out a blue economic policy in less than six weeks, the real work will require a lot more staying power and even some unpopular decisions.
President Jacob Zuma says that he will be monitoring the progress on an ongoing basis. Well, so will I and I hope to be able to provide updates via this blog in the future.
We also welcome any feedback from industry in this regard. Please drop me an email with your thoughts or complete the survey on Operation Phakisa by clicking here.