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Unlocking the potential of South Africa's ocean economy

Focus Africa

Endowed with picturesque beaches and a coastline stretching for more than 2,500 km that is surrounded by waters from both the Indian and Atlantic oceans, South Africa is a tourist’s play ground.

The Western Cape province is home to Cape Town, that is described as the crown jewel of South Africa’s tourism. A sector that contributes about 3 percent to the country’s GDP.

Tim Harris, CEO of Wesgro, the tourism, trade and investment promotion agency for Cape Town and Western Cape delves into tourism prospects in Cape Town.

“Obviously tourism has been a big earner for the Cape particularly business tourism. I mean the World Economic Forum has been coming to Cape Town every other year for the past decade and I think most of the WEF delegates have a real appreciation for there conference when its hosted in Cape Town because it’s a chance to enjoy the lifestyle factors of the Cape on top of these critical conversations of the World Economic Forum.”

Apart from tourism, South Africa’s waters have a huge potential for further boosting economic growth. The government is already undertaking an ambitious plan dubbed ‘Operation Phakisa’ a Sesotho word meaning ‘hurry,’ which identifies key opportunity areas within the ocean.

According to government estimates the ocean economy could lift national growth by 4 % by 2019 and create over 1 million jobs by 2033.

“Generally, the oceans economy is offshore oil and gas, aquaculture, ports and ports services, coastal tourism and specifically what we in the environmental departmental affairs are looking at is marine protection and governance, setting up support systems for the oceans economy,” said Ashley Naidoo, chief director for oceans and coasts research at the department of environmental affairs.

A factor supported by Dr. Kingsley Makhubela, CEO, Brand South Africa.

“It’s a new area and these are strategies that are contained within our National Development Plan. To really invest more resources in the ocean economy to try see some development. So we hope that would change the dynamics moving forward.”

Even with all these grand plans, marine conservation remains priority.

“What we decided to do two years ago as part of our planning was to identify those areas that require more protection and there maybe varying reasons. To this end we are undertaking surveys on our research ships.

We are working with other national departments, we are collating the existing information and we’ve published some areas about 22 that we are saying these areas are potential areas that require some protection,” added Ashley Naidoo, chief director for oceans and coasts research at the department of environmental affairs.

Going forward, economic diversification offers an opportunity to take advantage of the demographic dividend in order to achieve inclusive and sustainable economic growth in South Africa.

“Longer term really the growth prospects for South Africa and of Cape Town and the Western Cape are very strongly linked to our ability to position ourselves as access points to the rest of the continent.

Essentially the African growth story, the growth of the largest consumer population in the world, demographers estimate by 2050 the population of Africa will be 2.4 billion, that is the biggest economic story of our lifetimes,” said Tim Harris, CEO of Wesgro.

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