May 11, 2020

SAIMI supports ocean governance in Africa

STRENGTHENING the fabric of ocean governance across Africa was at the heart of the annual course presented by the International Ocean Institute for 20 participants from the across the continent in Cape Town recently.

The Ocean Governance training programme for Africa was presented by the Africa region of the International Ocean Institute (IOI-SA), in partnership with SAIMI and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).

SAIMI has supported the programme since 2015, with its aim to develop a network of African “Ocean Ambassadors” equipped to contribute and promote responsible, knowledge-based ocean governance across the continent.

“We recognize the magnitude of the rapidly evolving challenges facing us, and the risks of expanding interests in ocean resource exploitation. Which is why I was particularly heartened by this year’s group of participants, and their ability to refocus the discussions towards some of the most difficult aspects of ocean governance, such as socio-economic inclusivity, cultural identity and community integration and custodianship,” IOI-SA Director Adnan Awad said.

This years’ 20 participants came from across Africa, including Cameroon, DRC, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania, selected from 71 applications from 14 countries.

Now in its fifth year, the programme offers an important benchmark for the continent to mitigate and manage risks associated with the maritime economy. The course covers a wide view of the legal, institutional and technical aspects of ocean governance, with an emphasis on implementation, as this is a common shortcoming in capacity for environmental regulation in many African countries.

The course themes cover the ocean governance framework and governance tools such as marine spatial planning; governance in action in areas such as shipping, marine mining and fisheries; threats and opportunities for oceans and coasts; and creating a supportive environment for management of ocean resources.

Awad said the participants found the inter-disciplinary nature of ocean governance eye-opening, realising the need to break down the traditional silos that hinder ocean governance.

The intense four-week programme included lectures by over 40 regional and local experts from more than 30 institutions, and at least one field trip per week giving practical life to the topics covered.

The programme is designed to be relevant and match the needs of various participants - who work as public officials, NGOs and academics - on their path to ocean and coastal governance. Participants in this year’s programme came from a broad range of backgrounds to enhance their skills, awareness and knowledge of ocean governance.

The Ocean Governance Training Programme in Africa is modelled on the structure and content of other IOI ocean governance courses (e.g. Canada and Malta). While the course highlighted the importance of the global governance framework, it had a regional focus, emphasising the benefits of harmonising ocean policies that promote a shared, integrated and common approach to ocean management in Africa.

Feedback from the participants included a need for greater stakeholder engagement, to break down the traditional silos that characterise and hinder ocean governance due to its interdisciplinary nature. Participants’ feedback also highlighted how, in the context of economic, environmental and social importance of the ocean, the cultural and spiritual relationship that communities have with the ocean is often neglected, despite its importance - particularly in Africa.

Participant Abisai Konstantinus, of the Namibian Port Authority said he appreciated the “Africa-centred” nature of the course and said he would wear the “Ocean Ambassador badge with pride”.

“The course for me was a complete package. Having spent a long time at sea and in port, the course gave me an overall picture of our oceans and the ecosystems approach which focuses on how human activities influence the health of the ocean, how laws are made, and often how challenging it is to enact them. I guarantee the knowledge gained will bear fruit,” he said.

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