It was a proposal in line with the ambitions of other regional powers, including India, Australia and Mauritius, and contributed to the establishment of the Indian Ocean Association Rim for Regional Cooperation in 1997. It was later renamed the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and currently includes 21 member states.
On 18 October South Africa became the new chair of IORA, a significant moment given both the historical linkages between IORA and the country’s first democratically elected president, as well as the current geostrategic importance of the Indian Ocean. International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane officially assumed chairmanship on behalf of the country at the recent IORA Council of Ministers Meeting in Durban.
The theme of South Africa’s two-year term is Uniting the Peoples of Africa, Asia, Australasia and the Middle East through Enhanced Cooperation for Peace, Stability and Sustainable Development.
One of the key achievements of the meeting was the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the promotion of small and medium enterprises by India, Mauritius, Seychelles, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa and Yemen. This is the first economic MoU signed within IORA and creates a framework for capacity building, development of regional value chains and sharing of best practices to drive employment and alleviate poverty.
IORA has identified the Blue Economy as the top priority for generating employment and ensuring sustainability in business and economic models for the region. This is an emphasis that South Africa will certainly build on, drawing lessons from its own ocean economy programme through Operation Phakisa.
Our research on ocean governance and the Blue Economy explores both overarching governance frameworks and sector-specific issues within maritime industries such as fisheries, seabed mining, and offshore oil and gas. Sustainability concerns related to the marine environment, including issues related to climate change, biodiversity and sustainable livelihoods, are equally important focus areas.
Our recent work on the Indian Ocean’s Blue Economy:
- Aligning Africa’s Maritime Ambitions with Broader Indian Ocean Regionalism
- The Nexus Between Prosperity in the African Maritime Domain and Maritime Security
- Room for (Blue) Growth? Exploring national, regional and global ocean strategies
- Safeguarding Tanzania’s Coral Reefs: The Case of Illegal Blast Fishing
- Integrated Marine and Coastal Management in the Western Indian Ocean: Towards a Sustainable Oceans Economy
- France in the Indian Ocean: A Geopolitical Perspective and its Implications for Africa
- Silk, Cinnamon and Cotton: Emerging Power Strategies for the Indian Ocean and the Implications for Africa