Plans to boost SA's ocean, waterways economy

November 2, 2015, 5:17am

Calulo group chair Mkhuseli Faku. (Pic: Rusana Philander)  

By Fin24

Cape Town - In global economic terms, South Africa’s vast oceans and inland waterways are a natural resource that has the potential to unlock a largely untapped economic industry and meet the country’s urgent job-creation requirements, according to Commander Tsietsi Mokhele, CEO of the South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa).

The success of the 2014 Open Ocean Festival, which a year ago formed part of the 2014 Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) Cape Town stopover offering, has been used as a platform from which to develop a nationwide annual Ocean Festival series linked to ocean-sector initiatives.

The idea of an annual ocean festival in Cape Town was conceived by the V&A Waterfront and Worldsport, to encourage local interest and involvement with the ocean and watersports. Mandated to support and develop South Africa’s oceans economy, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) recognised the ocean festival as a unique platform through which to realise their mandate.

As a result, Samsa and Worldsport have together elected to take the ocean festival further, spreading it to other provinces and encapsulating inland waterways. The first South African Ocean Festival in Cape Town, currently underway, is again co-sponsored by the V&A Waterfront and Samsa.

The annual festivals will form part of South Africa’s new Marine Tourism and Leisure Strategy, which was formally announced this weekend at an event at the V&A Waterfront. In addition to the Cape Town-based festival, a broader plan exists to extend the festivals nationwide as of 2016, to include inland waterways such as dams and lakes, both of which have unique economies SAMSA believe should not be overlooked.

“Our strategic vision is to ensure that, by 2030, South Africa will be the premier experienced-based marine tourism destination in Africa, as well as the top marine tourism destination globally, with a unique range of offerings for all visitors,” said Mokhele.

Through the festival, it’s hoped that locals and tourists alike will celebrate and make use of South Africa’s more than 3 000km of ocean coastline and inland waterways through water sports, music, food and education, thereby promoting destination-tourism and much-needed opportunities for smaller businesses, skills-transfer, development and job-creation.

Additionally, the hosting of ocean festivals in other provinces will necessitate the creation of a national ocean festival company or entity that will be entrusted with management of the events. This new company will be responsible for marketing and event management of festivals in other cities, and will create an opportunity for the establishment of business partnerships that will contribute to transformation, creation and sharing of wealth.

Marine tourism ranks in the top four sub-sectors of South Africa’s maritime economy, with enormous growth projected for the next two decades. The SA maritime economy contributed R19-billion to the country’s GDP in 2013, with projections currently indicating that this is likely to rise to around R44bn in 2020, and grow to as much as R134bn by 2033. The economic potential should be fostered and encouraged by government and private sector alike.

During the 2014 stopover the V&A Waterfront was a commercial partner and host venue for state-of-the-art boat-building facilities, exhibition and hospitality sites and masses of entertainment, creating hundreds of part-time jobs during the 19-day period. It goes without saying the race also has a massive impact on trade and tourism in the area, with the 2014 stopover generating an estimated economic injection of around R540m.

The launch of South Africa’s first coordinated and comprehensive Marine Tourism and Leisure Strategy in Cape Town at end October 2015 is a major milestone in the country’s stated quest to grow, expand and integrate the country’s maritime sector into mainstream of economy, according to Calulo Group chair Mkhuseli Faku.

Petrochemical supply group Calulo has lent its support to the Ocean Festival as part of its greater support for government’s Operation Phakisa – a programme that has a key focus on unlocking the economic potential of South Africa’s oceans.

The main goal of the Ocean Festival is not only to boost the tourism potential of South Africa’s marine assets, but to also tap into the ocean as a resource to increase South Africa’s share of the global marine market, and in turn create business and job opportunities.