South African environment minister shares lessons on how to create blue economies

Edna Molewa, South Africa’s environmental affairs minister. Photo by: Jakob Polacsek / World Economic Forum / CC BY-NC-SA

DURBAN, South Africa — During a roundtable discussion on “blue economies” South Africa’s Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa shared lessons on how African nations can utilize water resources, such as rivers and oceans, as pathways to reach markets and also use them to create more economic opportunities.

With roughly 2,500 miles (4,000 km) of coastline and an advanced maritime development program — called Operation Phakisa: Oceans Economy — included in the country’s national economic stimulus plan, South Africa’s blue economy has the possibility of helping create 1 million jobs and adding $10 billion to the country’s GDP by 2033, Molewa told the group.

Through an integrated strategy that addresses four key sectors — marine transport and manufacturing; offshore oil and gas exploration; aquaculture; protection and governance — South Africa is tapping into a previously unchartered space that has substantial economic and social development potential, Molewa said.

“This is a space where half our government has something to do: agriculture, science and technology, environmental affairs, higher education (because we need skills), transport — but they are coordinated,” Molewa said, noting that protection and governance lies at the foundation for the other economic sectors to function.

One study has put the economic value of the world’s oceans at $24 trillion and more than 90 percent of Africa’s imports and exports are transported by sea. Sustainable management of the ocean is also key to feeding the growing population, Molewa explained. To help protect this global resource, South Africa has designated certain MPAs, or marine protected areas, to support the successful execution of its marine economic strategy.

Since 2013, the country has made progress on further unlocking the potential of its vast coastline with an increase in local manufacturing through increased use of local components for boat and ship building. Future plans to expand this blue economy will include major projects that the minister said will take time and advanced technologies to achieve such as energy production.

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About the author

  • Christin Roby

    Christin Roby worked as the West Africa Correspondent for Devex, covering global development trends, health, technology, and policy. Before relocating to West Africa, Christin spent several years working in local newsrooms and earned her master of science in videography and global affairs reporting from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Her informed insight into the region stems from her diverse coverage of more than a dozen African nations.

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