Opening address by International Relations and Cooperation Deputy Minister Nomaindiya Mfeketo on the occasion of the First IORA Blue Economy Core Group Workshop entitled: “Promoting Fisheries & Aquaculture and Maritime Safety & Security Cooperation in Indian Ocean Region,” Durban
As a first step, let me acknowledge the presence of Professor Olive Shisana, CEO of the Human Sciences Research Council, which is also a Co-Partner of the Blue Economy Core Group and this Workshop; IORA Secretary General, Ambassador Bhagirath; Members of the IORA Troika: High Commissioner of India to South Africa, High Commissioner Ghanashyam; High Commissioner Designate of Australia to South Africa, Mr McCarthy; and High Commissioner of Indonesia to South Africa, High Commissioner Martosetomo; Professor Bawa, Co-Partner and Durban University of Technology Vice Chancellor; Dr Attri, Chair of Indian Ocean Studies at the Indian Ocean University in Mauritius; Commander Tsietsi Mokhele, CEO of the South African Maritime Safety Agency; Ambassador Matjila, Director-General of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation; Dr Sooklal, IORA Focal Point and Deputy Director-General at DIRCO responsible for Asia and Middle East; Dr Mayekiso, Deputy-Director General for Oceans and Coastal Sciences at the Department of Environmental Affairs;
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to the First IORA Blue Economy Core Group Workshop on “Promoting Fisheries and Aquaculture, and Maritime Safety and Security Cooperation in Indian Ocean Region”.
Strategic Context of Workshop – Origin of IORA
The idea of an “Indian Ocean Cooperation Initiative” was first mentioned by South Africa during the official visit by former President Nelson Mandela to India in 1995, where he, in view of the changing global geo-strategic developments stated that: “.. the natural urge of the facts of history and geography should broaden itself to include the concept of an Indian Ocean Rim for socio-economic cooperation and other peaceful endeavours. Recent changes in the international system demand that the countries of the Indian Ocean shall become a single platform.” As a result, by early March 1995, we had already convened a meeting to discuss the enhancement of economic cooperation among countries of the Indian Ocean Rim in Mauritius. Representatives from the government, business sectors and academia, of Australia, India, Kenya, Mauritius, Sultanate of Oman, Singapore and South Africa, known as the “Core Group States” or M-7, attended the meeting. By 1996, the membership had doubled to include Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Yemen, Tanzania, Madagascar and Mozambique, known as the M-14 where-after we saw the launching of the Charter of the Organisation and the subsequent Ministerial Meetings.
The vision of the initiating partners was to create an apex Pan-Indian Ocean Forum, in order to promote sustainable growth and balanced development through Economic Dialogue and Cooperation. Undoubtedly, the Organisation itself has grown from strength to strength over the recent couple of years, with expansion in membership, increasing interest to lead and Chair it by Member States, as well as a growing global profile. In this regard, the leadership role played by the current Secretary General, Ambassador Bhagirath, can directly be correlated to the strengthened IORA we are witnessing today. His successor will undoubtedly have big shoes to fill!
Importance of the Indian Ocean in a Regional Context
Excellencies would be aware that the Indian Ocean includes all of the major seas in the region from the Mozambique Channel up to the Great Australian Bight with a coastline stretching to 66,526 km in total, shared by all littoral nations. This Ocean has set the stage for some of history’s most ferocious and bitter battles for control of the routes, and the territories on those routes. During the recent celebration of 60 years of the Bandung Conference on Afro-Asian solidarity in Indonesia, it became increasingly apparent that as much as we have made meaningful progress, we have to deepen these gains in order to improve our trade, cooperation and developmental prospects.
The Ocean is central to human survival; it provides humanity with a natural barrier, providing food security and nutrition, as well as climate regulation. For centuries, lives and livelihoods have been entirely dependent on the Ocean for food, recreation, transport and economic transaction. Indeed, the time is here to maximise the benefit from these facets of our Oceanic Resources. In addition to its strategic significance, the Indian Ocean is full of natural resources, making it an obvious natural attraction not only for regional players but for Dialogues Partners such as the US and China as well.
Large reserves of hydrocarbons are being tapped in the offshore areas of Saudi Arabia, Iran, India and Western Australia. With an estimated 40% of the world’s offshore oil production coming from the Indian Ocean, we are aware that the Indian Ocean is also seen as one of the world’s great maritime highways, with approximately 50% of the world’s merchant shipping passing through the Strait of Malacca.
It is no doubt that the strategic seaports dotted across Asia are going to play a decisive, vital and economic, role in the coming years due to their multipurpose nature. Some of these ports are critical choking points for the international sea lines of communications while others are gateways to the land locked regions.
The geography of the Indian Ocean and the littoral states can be divided into five major strategic categories, that of Strategic water access ways and Choking Points, Multi-purpose Strategic Ports, International Sea Lines of Communication, Land based trade corridors connected to coastlines, as well as Strategic Islands.
South Africa’s Priorities in IORA
With South Africa due to Chair IORA from 2017 to 2019, it will seek to build on the successive leadership of India, Australia and Indonesia, as preceding Chairs. India’s Chairship outlined six priority areas for IORA, namely Maritime Security and Safety, Trade and Investment Facilitation, Fisheries Management, Disaster Risk Reduction, Academic, Science and Technological Cooperation, as well as Tourism Promotion and Cultural Exchanges. With Australia’s Chairship, we saw the summation of the priority areas pioneered by India into the Blue Economy or Ocean Economy, together with the common thread of promoting Women Development and mainstreaming Business to Business linkages within IORA.
It is patent, Excellencies, that the Ocean Economy or Blue Economy is the future of IORA wherein marine economic activity is emerging as a common source of growth, innovation and job creation for the Indian Ocean Region. The Blue Economy offers a model of development that is ocean-based rather than solely land based, and better suited to the challenges and opportunities of Indian Ocean Rim economies. It highlights the role biodiversity, including marine life and ecosystems, plays in supporting marine economic activity and enhancing food security. In this context, at a domestic level, South Africa has its own strategy, which was launched by our President in October 2014, for the Ocean Economy, as encapsulated in Operation Phakisa, spanning the priorities of Marine Manufacturing and Marine Transport, Aquaculture, Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration, as well as Marine Protection and Governance. We aim to optimise this convergence of the domestic priorities and the IORA priorities, as an area of high value potential.
Africa’s Development and IORA
Africa, and Africa’s development is also undoubtedly inextricably linked to developments in the Indian Ocean, with the entire Eastern and Southern seaboards of the continent bordering on the Indian Ocean. South Africa’s key focus areas for its Chairship will be undertaken in partnership with the African members of IORA. Mindful of the 20th Year Anniversary milestone of IORA in March 2017, a year which we will share with Indonesia in the Chair, our preliminary thoughts on our Chairship priorities include: the Ocean Economy, Research Development and Innovation, Engagement with Dialogue Partners, Maritime Security, and Civil Society participation in IORA, in close coordination with the African Membership of IORA. South Africa and SADC’s strategy with respect to the Indian Ocean Region is embedded in the AIMS (African Integrated Maritime Strategy), which is a multidimensional approach and perspective on maritime security, governance, and Africa’s seaborne development potential.
Excellencies, not only did Heads of State and Governments adopt Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy and Plan of Action at the 22nd Summit in January 2014, but additionally, Africa’s leaders declared the 2015-2025 decade as the “Decade of African Seas and Oceans”, giving us a clear Continental framework.
Context of Inaugural Workshop in Durban
Excellencies, having set out the strategic political vision we had in the establishment of IORA, having outlined the potential it holds for our respective countries and how we intend to optimise it leading up to our Chairship, it is apt to contextualise our meeting today. This inaugural IORA Blue Economy Core Group Workshop on Promoting Fisheries and Aquaculture; and Maritime Safety and Security Cooperation in Indian Ocean Region, stems out of our identified need as South Africa, to give support to the aforementioned strategic policy objectives by underpinning them with academic cooperation and researcher exchanges in the areas of blue economic growth.
The Core Group thus provides support for exchange of ideas among Academic Experts, Researchers and Government Representatives in the form of several workshops to promote joint activities related to the blue economy, especially Maritime Safety and Security; Aquaculture and Food Security in the short term and in the longer term over the next three years, the focus will be expanded to include Shipping, and Oil and Gas Exploration. We are grateful for the support of Australia for this inaugural workshop in particular, which has come on board with co-finance. We are aware that China is contemplating hosting the sequel workshop as a Dialogue Partner while India, Sri Lanka, Oman, Indonesia, and the USA will contribute in various ways. We appeal for further support from all members of IORA in this regard.
Excellencies, the outcome of this workshop taking place today and tomorrow, together with other planned Regional Workshops will feed directly into the inaugural Blue Economy IORA Ministerial Conference, scheduled to take place in September later this year and graciously hosted by the Government of Mauritius. It will also feed into the long-term three year time period of anchoring the Blue Economy Core Group as mentioned earlier. The September Ministerial Conference will be the first of its kind, bringing together a strong Business Contingent, Academia and Policy Makers within the context of IORA and its Dialogue Partners.
The main objectives of the First IORA Blue Economy Ministerial Conference, taking place in September later this year will be to understand and evolve the concept of Blue Economy in order to generate employment and Sustainable Development in Member States of IORA.
In this context, the Program for the next two days is notably rigorous and far-reaching. In addition, I note that you will also be receiving a presentation on the Second Indian Ocean International Expedition which constitutes the most comprehensive empirical research on the subject of the Indian Ocean. As I inaugurate this Workshop, Excellencies, let me leave you with two key questions we need to address, which should form the background of the proceedings as follows:
We need to first and foremost address how we as Member States ensure that we act as a collective in harnessing the Ocean Economy in order to ensure that our respective domestic priorities are complementary to Regional and Sub-Regional aims and objectives.
We need to address the question of how we harness the presence of IORA’s Dialogue Partners in taking forward the optimisation of the Ocean Economy. How do we and our Dialogue Partners get to mutually realise value from IORA that is mutually beneficial for our people? More practically, how do we share experiences and best practices, address challenges and risks together; taking into account the need for sharing of expertise, technology transfer, research development and innovation initiatives, enhancing business to business contacts across the spectrum including SMMEs and Women led enterprises, encouraging joint research as well as strengthening academic exchanges.
Excellencies, I declare this Workshop Open, and in so doing, with a sense of urgency, wish to emphasise the need for Action oriented outcomes.
I thank you.