PROFESSIONALS from across Africa were converted to ‘Ocean Ambassadors’ following an international ocean governance course which was hosted from South Africa recently.
The Ocean Governance for Africa Course – presented by the International Ocean Institute South Africa (IOI-SA) in partnership with the South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI) and South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) – was hosted virtually for the first time.
It took place over a four-week period from February 22 to March 19, with a total of 16 participants signing in from across the continent from as far as Benin, Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Tanzania.
Course Coordinator, Dr Shannon Hampton, said it included 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.
It covered a wide range of topics including maritime security, shipping, marine biodiversity and climate change with the intention to provide participants with a basic understanding of these subjects, their inter-related nature, and the opportunity to engage with local and regional experts from a range of fields.
Hampton said a goal of the course was to meet the ongoing needs in the African region for awareness and training related to the various disciplines associated with ocean governance.
“Despite the virtual format as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the participants gained valuable experience in navigating online meetings, communicating effectively at a distance and accessing shared virtual resources. It was a learning curve for everyone involved but as the fourth industrial revolution is embedded in our way of life, these skills will be more and more important and relevant.”
Hampton said another advantage of the virtual format was that it enabled organisers to involve experts from other parts of the world. These included several from the IOI Network as well as experts from IOC-UNESCO, Birdlife International, IASS, University of Seychelles, University of Plymouth, CORDIO, the EPA of Sierra Leone, and Breda University in the Netherlands.
One of the main objectives of the course is to develop a network of practitioners that will continue to work towards and promote responsible, knowledge-based ocean governance throughout Africa.
“The weeks were characterised by lively discussion and thoughtful input from the participants. We also commissioned the making of a short video on Zandvlei as a case study linked to a session on Estuary Management,” said Hampton.
Zandvlei is one of Cape Town’s most important estuaries, and the video was made in collaboration with the City of Cape Town’s Zandvlei Conservation Team and the Zandvlei Trust.