Pretoria - The participation of women in the world's shipping industry must be increased, says Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.
Speaking at the 3rd Women in Shipping Conference in Durban, Dlamini Zuma, who is also the chairperson of the African Union Commission, said getting more women involved in the male dominated industry was a challenge not only for Africa, but the world as well.
"...Although women consist of at least 50% of the world's population of approximately seven billion people, only 2% globally are estimated to be involved in the international shipping industry," she noted.
Dlamini Zuma highlighted the importance of Africa Union member states implementing the provisions of the African Maritime Transport Charter, which includes the development and financing of the continental maritime industry.
It also includes the training and development of citizens, including women, to be part of this industry in its totality.
The global economy could not function if it were not for ships and the shipping industry, she added.
"Without this industry, intercontinental trade, the bulk transport of raw materials and the import and export of affordable food and manufactured goods would simply not be possible," said the minister.
Despite this enormous impact on the world, she questioned whether the shipping industry was as effective as it could be given that a miniscule fraction of women, who form over half of the world's population, participated in it.
Dlamini Zuma urged women who were already involved in the industry to encourage other women, especially young women, to become a part of it.
Another issue that required serious reflection was why Africa was not part of the global shipping industry.
"Geographically, the continent is after all surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, both the Suez Canal and the Red Sea along the Sinai Peninsula to the northeast, the Indian Ocean to the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Also, 50% of world trade between east and west comes through our coastline," Dlamini Zuma pointed out.
The African continent also possessed a generous endowment in natural resources, such as hydrocarbons, minerals and timber.
"Our natural resources also include diamonds, gold, iron, cobalt, uranium, copper, bauxite, silver, petroleum, but also wood and tropical fruits. In fact, Africa as a whole contains 30% of global mineral reserves. These goods are, however, unfortunately not transported on liners owned by us as Africans," she said.
Heads of state and governments recognised this challenge and demonstrated their political will to grow the maritime industry for the developmental agenda by adopting the African Maritime Transport Charter, Dlamini Zuma added.
"I hope that the provisions of this Charter can be matched by action from member states. African leaders also recognised the need for cooperation both, within the continent, and beyond as well as the value of training if the maritime industry was to be developed in Africa. This is a challenge for us all."