Change the world

Historical Background

  1. Historical Background

On the 15th February 2012, a consultative meeting was held at the Summerstrand Hotel to consider the feasibility of establishing a maritime cluster in Nelson Mandela Bay as the first step towards the development of a fully-fledged maritime industry. This meeting was a joint initiative of the Nelson Mandela University, Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber, and Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality. The historic meeting was attended by 80 local maritime stakeholders and authorities. There was unanimous support for the establishment of a local maritime cluster and since then the Nelson Mandela Maritime Cluster (NMBMC) has never looked back. The cluster continues to make progress and strives to develop into a relevant maritime cluster model for Africa.

The maritime industry, in broadest terms, includes all enterprises engaged in the business of designing, constructing, manufacturing, acquiring, operating, supplying, repairing and/or maintaining vessels, or component parts thereof: of managing and/or operating shipping lines, stevedoring and customs brokerage services, shipyards, dry docks, marine railways, marine repair shops, shipping and freight forwarding services, coastal and marine tourism, and similar enterprises.

There are six key attributes that facilitate innovation and competitiveness of the ocean economy: Building an educated and skilled workforce; becoming a leader in knowledge creation and innovation; developing linkages, clusters and networks to become a more integrated and networked local economy; fostering enterprise formation and business growth; becoming a globally focused and internationally integrated economy; and creating a business environment and infrastructure base that facilitates business success. Subsequently, the South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI) has been established and is currently seated at NMMU. SAIMI was officially launched in 2014 at the African Maritime Domain Conference (AMD 2014) convened at the Boardwalk Conference Centre in Port Elizabeth. The conference was attended by about 300 participants including 30 AU member countries.

  1. Cluster Definition

A cluster is defined as a population of geographically concentrated and mutually related business units, associations and public (private) organizations centered round a distinctive economic specialization. Consequently, the internal heterogeneity of clusters should be taken into account. Secondly, clusters are geographically concentrated. This dimension sets clusters apart from networks. Thirdly, the cluster population consists of business units, associations, public-private organizations, and public organizations. Associations are defined as organizations that provide services to members’. Associations are included in the `population’, if they are `cluster specific’, i.e. if the majority of their members is included in the cluster population. Public and public-private organizations (such as education or research institutes) are included in the population if they engage in cluster specific activities. Fourthly, clusters are ‘centered around’ a particular economic specialization, that can be regarded as the `core’ of the cluster. The notion of a core is implicit in most studies on clustering. Fifthly, clusters consist of business units and associations that are a part of, or relatively strongly related to, the core of the cluster. Such relations are in general both economical and social.

  1. Remodeling the NMBMC                                  

NMBMC is currently in the process of transforming from a voluntary association of coastal and ocean stakeholders into a legal entity with a bank account for the transfer of support funding. NMBMC will make every effort to apply for external sources of funding earmarked specifically for maritime research and development projects. Based on nearly five years of experience, NMBMC is busy with remodeling the cluster to make it more relevant and effective. The remodeling will create a two-way conduit of communications between the NMBMC, cluster partners and friends of the cluster. By way of an explanation the definition of friends of the cluster is an existing group of stakeholders, forum or conglomerate that meets regularly as an association to discuss issues of mutual interest and concern. Such a group, already established as an association in its own right, in many respects assumes the characteristics of a cluster or sub-cluster. In effect they accept the advantages and benefits of forging a mutually beneficial collaborative alliance with NMBMC.

The intention of NMBMC is not to duplicate or replicate the work of cluster partners and friends but rather to seek ways and means of strengthening the mutually beneficial cooperative alliance. Preferably NMBMC partners and friends should represent their subscribing or associated members. An institution of higher learning as a cluster partner would logically represent all those units within the institution that have either a direct or indirect association with the ocean economy and maritime sector.

The core function and role of NMBMC will therefore focus on the following areas:

  • Coordinating four scheduled NMB Maritime Cluster committee meetings a year;
  • Assisting with the implementation of Operation Phakisa in the Eastern Cape Province by involving the participation of the ocean business community;
  • Supporting an annual or bi-annual maritime summit and exhibition in the Eastern Cape Province;
  • Investigating cluster-to-cluster and business-to-business matchmaking events and opportunities for collaboration within Africa and internationally;
  • Assisting with the establishment of a Regional Ocean Council (ROC) in Africa affiliated to the World Ocean Council (WOC);
  • Motivating for funds and resources to compile a maritime directory of all maritime and marine related firms (small and large) located in Nelson Mandela Bay i.e. manufacturing, service providers, suppliers, boat building and construction, etc;
  • Assisting with the development of maritime clusters in the Eastern Cape Province;
  • Facilitating the development of maritime clusters in Africa leading to a collaborative alliance of maritime clusters connecting the port cities of Africa with the small island developing states of Africa over a period of time.
  1. The Ocean Business Community  

The ocean business community includes all enterprises engaged in the business of designing, constructing, manufacturing, acquiring, operating, supplying, repairing and/or maintaining vessels, or component parts thereof, as well as managing and/or operating shipping lines, stevedoring and customs brokerage services, shipyards, dry docks, marine railways, marine repair shops, shipping and freight forwarding services. They also include coastal and marine tourism role players, academic and scientific institutions, the fishing industry, as well as other relevant organs of State and civil society structures.

The main purpose of the cluster is to improve synergies between the myriad of interlocking role players in order to maximize the developmental impact of coastal and ocean activities while identifying and contributing to the resolution of conflicts of interest in a transparent, responsive and consultative manner e.g. to minimize the potential conflicts of interest in the Algoa Bay maritime domain (ocean space) under the jurisdiction of the responsible authorities. This will require marine spatial planning (MSP) of which a framework for South Africa is currently work in progress with assistance from GIZ. NMBMC will fully support the public participation process.

  1. Cluster Matchmaking

NMBMC has been accepted as a member of the European Cluster Collaboration Platform (ECCP) which allows for non-European membership. ECCP organizes European cluster matchmaking events in European countries with the aim to foster cooperation between clusters from across Europe and beyond. These matchmaking opportunities provide an excellent opportunity for NMBMC to connect with European maritime clusters mainly to dialogue on cluster-to-cluster and business-to-business opportunities for collaboration. Cluster matchmaking events offer a unique opportunity for NMBMC to explore possible common areas of interest for cooperation and complementarities in terms of sectoral, value chain, and market focus for maritime SMEs with a large panel of European and international clusters. The purpose of matchmaking is to develop cluster collaborations and thus creating greater possibilities for maritime SMEs and companies to grow through opportunities such as access to new markets or to new products and services.

NMBMC has declared 2017 the Year of Ocean Business as the Port Elizabeth based local maritime cluster explores opportunities to develop ocean business within the IORA maritime domain and also by forging mutually beneficial cooperative alliances with maritime clusters in other parts of the world. NMBMC will continue to negotiate with the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) to convene an ocean business convention. The Indian Ocean is a huge maritime domain and it would make sense to convene a pilot project in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) maritime domain before extending the concept of a maritime cluster alliance to other regions within the IORA ocean space.  It is estimated that some 60 million people in the WIO islands and Eastern African coastal communities rely on the coastal environment for goods and services. Coastal and island communities are largely dependent on fishing, shipping and tourism for their livelihoods. A number of previous initiatives in the WIO region, that either failed or lost support, were driven by public sector authorities without sufficient interest and involvement by business. The main role of the public sector authorities is to create the enabling environment in which the private sector can flourish. This requires participation and involvement in joint decision making. 

Matchmaking events are considered to be one of the most cost effective methods of making new business contacts and networking. The mission of matchmaking events is to connect small business with government and large businesses. In 2012, according to Cluster Collaborators, some 75,000 face-to-face appointments organised at matchmaking events resulted in US$6 – US$7 billion dollars in contracts. Matchmaking events are specific events organised with the purpose of meeting possible business partners in a sequence of short arranged meetings, enabling the participants to introduce themselves and look for possible areas of cooperation. Partnerships and investment opportunities can also connect researchers and academics with business partners and with universities from around the world.

  1. Towards an Alliance of Maritime Clusters in Africa

There is growing evidence to support a business case for unlocking the ocean business and investment potential of Africa via an alliance of maritime clusters. Developing collaborative business opportunities between coastal and ocean stakeholders requires the development of triple helix partnerships. The African Union incorporates 54 member states of which 37 states are coastal countries. There are virtually no maritime clusters in Africa and hence most inter-governmental collaboration is based on political decisions and not sound business decisions. There is a huge window of opportunity to develop maritime clusters in Africa. An Alliance of Maritime Clusters in Africa could be the vehicle for connecting emerging maritime clusters in Africa with an alliance of maritime clusters in the developed countries such as the Blue Tech Cluster Alliance which represents maritime clusters in eight countries around the world. To develop maritime clusters in Africa requires capacity-building training programs incorporating cluster facilitation and business skills development in the port cities and small island developing states (SIDS) of Africa. The only barrier to the implementation of maritime cluster development in Africa is support funding for the implementation of capacity-building training programs. Training material has already been developed and these programs could easily be customized for port cities and small island developing states in Africa.

  1. Looking to the Future

NMBMC has adopted the Quadruple Helix Innovation Cluster Model which adds a fourth helix to the Eurocentric Triple Helix Model i.e. civil society which includes local communities. According to the Quadruple Helix Innovation Theory (QHIT), a country’s economic structure lies on four pillars/helices: Academia; Firms, Government and Civil Society and economic growth is generated by the clustering and concentration of talented and productive people. Creative cities and knowledge regions are thus considered the true engines of economic growth.  Academia and Firms, together with Technological Infrastructures of Innovation, provide the integrated innovation ecosystem where all forms of creativity can rise. In turn, Governments provide the financial support and the regulation system for the definition and implementation of innovation activities. NMBMC looks forward to supporting the NMU Ocean Sciences Campus and will in future arrange all its committee meetings and workshops at the campus to create even greater opportunities for collaboration between the ocean business community, government authorities, ocean sciences, and civil society.

Peter Myles

Chair: Nelson Mandela Bay Maritime Cluster

14th September 2017