More impetus has come the way of the blue economy sector of President Jacob Zuma’s Operation Phakisa initiative with South Africa this week being named as a Category C member of the Council of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).
Category C members are states which have special interests in maritime transport or navigation and whose election to the Council will ensure representation of all the world’s major geographic areas, the IMO said.
Other Category C members are Australia, Bahamas, Belgium, Chile, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, Indonesia, Kenya, Liberia, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Turkey.
Speaking after South Africa was voted aboard, Deputy Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga said the voice of African countries on maritime issues would be strengthened by South Africa’s presence on the global council of the UN multilateral body.
“We stand to benefit immensely as the African continent from South Africa’s election to the IMO council. This is where critical decisions are made with regard to global maritime affairs, ranging from the ocean economy, rescue initiatives and safety and security matters at sea,” Chikunga said.
She said South Africa’s election to the council comes at a time when the country is embarking on a new ambitious chapter of unlocking the country’s maritime potential through the blue oceans’ Economy strategy and Operation Phakisa.
“With a coastline totalling 3 900 km we believe there’s plenty of untapped potential at sea. Through Operation Phakisa we have identified projects that will ensure the oceans’ economy is realised,” the Deputy Minister said.
South Africa’s arrival as a player on the UN’s international maritime decision making body comes just over a week after the sudden and unexpected cancellation of the Maritime Africa conference and exhibition in Cape Town. Maritime industry observers maintain the cancellation left an unnecessary gap in the national debate around the blue economy and its part in Operation Phakisa.
The conference was to have included seminars specific to Operation Phakisa and the visit of a Spanish offshore patrol vessel (OPV) was timed to coincide with the event. This was seen as an endorsement of the three vessel OPV tender currently being assessed by Armscor to provide the SA Navy with an improved and stronger patrol capability.
Launching the blue economy phase of Operation Phakisa in Durban in October last year, President Jacob Zuma said the ocean around the southern tip of Africa could contribute around a million jobs via shipbuilding and mineral and resource extraction by 2033. An integral part of his blue economy vision is an improved ability to patrol and provide security in South Africa’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). This is where the maritime arm of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) comes in with the acquisition of three each of inshore and offshore patrol vessels.
The SA Navy’s patrol capabilities currently reside in its four Valour Class frigates and three Heroine Class submarines as far as blue water is concerned with three of its former strikecraft now modified and serving as OPVs.
Timothy Walker, Institute for Security Studies (ISS) researcher in conflict management and peacebuilding, is the Pretoria-headquartered think-tank’s go-to man on the blue economy.
He maintains Africa’s lack of a broad maritime culture is the result of the continent’s colonial legacy which forced countries to look inwards.
“The consequences are astounding. Illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing is estimated to cost sub-Saharan Africa approximately US$1 billion a year in lost revenue. Somalia-based piracy cost an estimated US$7 billion in 2011. And it is estimated that 50 to 60 tons of cocaine move through West Africa to Europe annually.
“Yet states on all coasts of Africa depend on a secure sea. More than 90% of Africa’s trade is seaborne, fishing contributes to food security for more than 200 million Africans and vast oil and gas potential lies off the coast.
“Most African countries lack policies for ocean governance. Only five countries in Africa currently have dedicated coast guards, though many navies effectively conduct coast guard operations. The lack of extensive maritime air surveillance and satellite imagery makes it almost impossible for African countries to effectively monitor their territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ).
“The consequences are damaging coastal communities and states as a whole, and fuel global security problems. While piracy around the Horn of Africa is declining, seafarers are still at risk and many remain in captivity. And Somali pirates haven’t gone away: they are just doing other illegal business.
“Maritime crime is increasing in the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea from Angola to Ghana, including piracy, people and drug smuggling and arms trafficking. This fuels onshore instability. Illegal waste dumping, infrastructure maintenance and port security also constitute major concerns for Africa’s oceans. Additional threats come from boundary disputes and potential conflict over resources.
“Africa’s marine environment is globally significant too, as a great deal of international shipping passes through our seas. Maritime schedules are worked out years in advance, so even a single incident of piracy, or the failure of just one port to prevent armed robbery, spreads ripples through the global economy.
“Fortunately, African states and international organisations are paying increasing attention to maritime security. No African country can secure its maritime domain alone, however. The seas are huge. It’s a fantasy to imagine any country can secure its maritime domain alone; not even the United States of America is capable of that kind of control over its waters. The seas don’t have fences, fish don’t respect borders and oil and gas deposits tend to straddle multiple territories. Criminals can easily cross boundaries to evade capture,” he writes on the ISS website.
In Walker’s opinion the best chance of overcoming challenges and creating prosperity is through international co-operation and he also sees Operation Phakisa containing valuable lessons for other African countries.
“It aims to create wealth and development by exploiting the untapped bonanza of maritime resources. It includes detailed plans for four focal areas – marine transport and manufacturing, offshore oil and gas exploration, aquaculture and marine protection, and ocean governance.”
South African Tourism’s West Africa Trade Workshop held recently in Lagos was a major marketing campaign platform aimed at increasing tourist arrivals from the West African sub-region. The high-profile guests and stakeholders from the travel and tourism industry converged on Federal Palace Hotel & Casino Lagos, venue of the Power Breakfast Dialogue and Trade Workshop to discuss, project and smooth out grey areas. Omolola Itayemi writes
South African Government has said it must align its efforts in critical areas such as expanding air connectivity and tourist friendly travel facilitations to attract more tourists. The country’s Consul-General in Nigeria, Amb. Mokgethi Monaisa made this known during his opening remarks at the South Africa Tourism/ West Africa Trade Workshop held recently in Lagos.
The envoy informed that the South African Consulate issued 133, 114 visas to Nigerians between January 2013 and June 2015. According to the envoy, visas issued to Nigerians visiting South Africa in 2013 amounts to 59657; 48289 in 2014 and 25168 in 2015 alone. So far, successful visa applicants in the country have spent over N2 billion on the procurement of the South African visas in three years.
The sum accrued from the successful issuance of visas to 133,114 applicants between January 2013 and June 2015. The N21,000 fee per visa applicant, comprises N8,600 visa fees which go directly to the South Africa embassy and N12,000 service charges that go to VSF, the handling company. Amb. Monaisa however, said that “South Africa’s bilateral relations with Nigeria continued to strengthen. A bi-national commission of cooperation between the two countries was established to lay a firm foundation for co-operation and partnership within the broader objectives of the African Renaissance, and have since then grown from strength to strength”.
He said that South Africa and surely Nigeria saw a mixed performance across key source markets, adding that even in the face of Ebola challenges, tourism grew substantially in 2014. He pointed out that the INDABA 2015 hosted in Durban, South Africa recorded success.
“A few months ago, South Africa hosted INDABA 2015 in Durban. With more than 1000 exhibitors, including 300 exhibitors from 20 African countries, and about 2000 buyers from the world’s tourism source markets, INDABA 2015 was a resounding success. We hope to call for proposals for a potential partner with a global reach to expand INDABA even further”. He said selling South African products to the world was extremely important, “but equally important is that the product itself has to be continuously enhanced.”
He also said that tourism in South Africa contributed no less than 9.4% to GDP in 2014, and more importantly, one in every 10 jobs is supported by tourism. “However, tourism growth should not only be measured by the numbers of domestic tourists or international arrivals.”
Monaisa added: “Tourism growth has to be environmentally and socially sustainable. And it has to be inclusive growth. To achieve this, we must bring more marginalised communities into the tourism mainstream.” Speaking further at the workshop, Regional Director for Africa, South African Tourism, Evelyn Mahlaba, noted that the bulk of the successful visa applicants were visitors from the age category of between 25 years to late 30s.
Also, about 40 percent of the applicants visited for leisure while 60 percent came for business. Mahlaba observed that over 60,000 Nigerian arrivals to South Africa in 2014 (a figure representing 9 percent of Nigeria’s total outbound tours), were attracted by the country’s value for money tailor-made tour packages, well-developed tourism facilities, quality accommodations in its 5,253 graded hotels and resorts, efficient transport systems, beautiful landscape and exuberant culture among others.
To facilitate a smooth operation towards achieving these targets, there has been the launch of South African Tourism office in Lagos with the entire West Africa as its catchment area and the recent launch of VFS office in Port Harcourt top ease the stress of visa procurement for people in the South East and South South Nigeria.
Also explaining why the Trade Workshop in Lagos was imperative, Mosilo Sofonia, researcher at South African Tourism, in her presentation tagged SAT; Nigeria: Travel market insights, noted that the focus on West Africa and Nigeria in particular was because Africa is the base-load of international tourism to South Africa, with over 70 percent of all arrivals every year.
Of that percentage, Nigeria alone contributes the most arrivals of the Africa air markets and exceeds the second largest market by more than 20,000 arrivals.
“Outside of Africa land markets, Nigeria has the highest number of tourist arrivals into South Africa from the continent. From a West African viewpoint, Nigeria contributes about three quarters of tourist arrivals as well as revenue into South Africa”, she said.
Peabody Energy is accused of exploiting the deadly outbreak to promote fossil fuels.
West Africa’s ongoing Ebola epidemic is continuing to prove a massive challenge to global health officials, to the extent that the outbreak, which has killed 11,065 people and infected 26,000 others, has caused the World Health Organization to completely reconsider the way it approaches public health crises.
And to think that, if only we were more supportive of Big Coal, we could have avoided all of this.
This, according to a Guardian report, was a real argument put forth last year by coal giant Peabody Energy, which, as part of a campaign to rebrand coal from being seen as a climate change-causing, lung damaging pollutant to a “21st-century fuel” capable of solving global poverty, suggest that coal was the solution to Ebola:
Greg Boyce, the chief executive of Peabody, a US-based multinational with mining interests around the world, included a slide on Ebola and energy in a presentation to a coal industry conference in September last year. The slide suggested that more energy would have spurred the distribution of a hypothetical Ebola vaccine — citing as supporting evidence a University of Pennsylvania infectious disease expert.
That expert, infectious disease specialist Harvey Rubin, had spoken previously about the importance of continuous refrigeration, and therefore reliable energy, to the distribution of a hypothetical Ebola vaccine (none, as of yet, have been approved for use in humans). But he told the Guardian he “know[s] nothing about the coal industry,” and was annoyed that they spelled his name wrong in their presentation.
Other public health experts contacted by the Guardian are considerably more peeved by Peabody’s suggestion:
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Michelle Grant, travel and tourism manager at Euromonitor International, looks at the impact of Ebola on Africa‘s tourist industry.
Since the outbreak of Ebola was declared a global health threat by the World Health Organization in August, the outbreak in West Africa, mainly in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, has had a disproportionate impact on international tourism to Africa. Tourism declines have been noted in countries thoughts of miles away and without the virus. However, the Ebola outbreak in the hardest hit countries seems to be improving and some scientists are optimistic about containment within a year. Once containment happens and is well known, Africa can start the process of rebuilding its tourism industry.
Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone account for less than 1% of international tourism arrivals to Sub-Saharan countries according to Euromonitor International, but fears about the virus are impacting countries thousands of miles away from the epicenter and have no cases of Ebola. A Safaribookings.com poll of 500 tour operators in Africa found that 50% of operators experienced cancellations due to fears about the virus and 69% said that they’ve experience noticeable declines in their future bookings.
The Hotels Association of Tanzania noted in October 2014 that business had declined by 30% to 40% compared to the pervious year and that bookings for 2015 were down by 50%. South African tourism players, One&Only and Go2Africa, have also discussed declines in their business due to fears of Ebola.
There may be hope for a turnaround in the near term, though. According to the WHO’s Ebola situation report from 10 December 2014, Ebola incidence is decreasing in Liberia, increasing or stable in Sierra Leone and slightly increase in Guinea. The race is on for vaccines and anti-viral medications while tests are being done on blood from survivors—all in hopes of containing the virus. Some scientists think that the Ebola virus can be contained within a year.
Once containment happens, it is likely that the positive news will be widespread, alleviating fears about the virus in Africa. It is during this time that private and public players in Africa should work together to promote Africa as a destination to international tourists, who are much more likely to come once the threat of the virus, is contained.
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24 June 2015.
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