Cape Town – South Africa’s economic challenges demand that the country is innovative in unlocking untapped economic opportunities, says Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor.
“It is important that we come up, as a country, with initiatives that are innovative, that utilise new economic opportunities and that invest in areas that have a strong potential to support economic growth, business formation and employment creation.
“The economic [challenges] that we face demands that we become innovative, that we use our creative abilities far more rigorously than we might have done and I believe this investment in the oceans economy, in the blue economy, offers us this set of opportunities,” she said.
The Minister said this shortly before she launched the South African Marine Research and Exploration Forum (SAMREF) at the Two Oceans Aquarium, in Cape Town, on Friday.
SAMREF is an initiative aimed at exploiting research opportunities in offshore oil and gas exploration in South Africa and it was established under government’s Operation Phakisa Oceans Economy initiative, launched by President Jacob Zuma in 2014.
According to government’s commissioned research, the oceans economy has the potential to contribute R177 billion to SA’s Gross Domestic Product and create just over one million jobs by 2033.
The launch of SAMREF marks the successful implementation of Operation Phakisa B3, which is aimed at exploiting the broader research opportunities presented by offshore oil and gas exploration.
According to the department, the primary objective of SAMREF is to grow public sector research on marine and oceanic environment through the exploration of new opportunities presented by explorations and cruises undertaken on behalf of private sector extractive industries.
The Minister said for the economic prospects to improve, a partnership was needed between the state, business and other sectors of the economy.
She said the oil and gas exploration industry has been looking at these opportunities for a long time.
“We believe as a department that business and government must work together… We really must invest more in research and development. More of our people should go into that.”
Minister Pandor also on Friday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Sean Lunn, the Chairperson of the Offshore Petroleum Association of South Africa.
The MoU signifies a partnership between government and the oceans economy sector.
According to the MoU, SAMREF will be tasked with overseeing the implementation of initiative B3 through the establishment of a brokerage service that will see partnerships established around explorations, thereby enhancing cooperation between the public and private sectors, and improving the exchange of information and data on a voluntary basis.
As part of its activities, SAMREF will also facilitate new collaborative offshore studies that would increase South Africa’s state of knowledge of the offshore marine environment related to renewable energy potential, marine biodiversity and ecology, climate change and ecosystem functioning, as well as mitigating the policy conflict between developing oil and gas sector and the development of a low-carbon economy.
SAMREF will comprise representatives across the public and private sectors, with three representatives from national government, two from state-owned companies, two from research institutions, another two from the oil and gas industry associations and two others from private sector associations.