Change the world


This article appeared in The Herald of 15 August 2018 written by Shaun Gillham


Best described as constructive, frank, forward-thinking and inspirational, a high-level roundtable discussion held in Port Elizabeth on Monday laid bare both the huge potential and current pitfalls of SA’s key economic catalyst, Operation Phakisa.

Picture: WERNER HILLS STRAIGHT TALK: Eastern Cape economic development, environmental affairs and tourism MEC Oscar Mabuyane delivers a frank address on the oceans economy project

Held at the Nelson Mandela University’s new Ocean Sciences Campus, the event attracted the cream of the Bay’s maritime, academic, government-aligned and private-sector leadership, among others.

They were joined by leading business representatives and the leadership of state-owned development agencies, such as the Eastern Cape Development Corporation from East London, and economic development, environmental affairs and tourism MEC Oscar Mabuyane.

At the core of the discussion was SA’s oceans economy project – nationally and in the Eastern Cape in particular, and specifically the progress made towards achieving its 2033 goals of generating a projected R177bn contribution to GDP and a million new jobs.

A vital requirement for the success of the project was possibly best reflected by former Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber CEO Kevin Hustler.

“This is the greatest gathering of minds on the oceans economy I have witnessed in this region,” he said.

“The political leadership needs to be there [for Operation Phakisa to succeed].

“The political leadership needs to drive this project.

“I salute the MEC because I believe he has the will to drive this.”

Hustler’s remarks followed Mabuyane’s dynamic and candid keynote address which set the stage and the mood of the discussions from the outset.

Never shying away from the government’s shortcomings around the project, Mabuyane made it clear that unity among all stakeholders was a critical ingredient for its success and importantly, that he stands firmly behind the project and is willing to actively help drive its implementation.

Critical of the country’s tender system, Mabuyane cited China’s well-documented success and said South Africa required new thinking around its development and transformation programmes.

He called for a focus on merit, and the support of, young black industrialists and undergraduates and post-graduates wanting to participate in the maritime industry.

SMMEs and co-ops were also high on his list of entities that require assistance, mentorship and inclusion towards the development and growth of the oceans economy and the economy as a whole.

Mabuyane also noted the increasing unemployment rate and the decrease in the province’s contribution to the national GDP, saying “we need to change what we are doing”.

Citing successes achieved in the oceans economy by KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape, speakers agreed that unity between business and government, which is prevalent in those provinces, is one of the biggest challenges in the Eastern Cape’s efforts in the project.

Issues commanding the most debate were the highly contentious relocation of the fuel tank farm and manganese ore dump and shipping operation from Port Elizabeth harbour, and fuel bunkering.

Business chamber CEO Nomkhita Mona pledged the organisation’s full support for small harbour development in the region and hands-on assistance for SMMEs participating in the oceans sector.


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