PhD Research Zooms in on SA’s Untapped Ocean Economy


Maritime expert, Dr Sanele Gumede, graduates with his PhD in Leadership Studies.

New oceans economy growth areas are a priority for South Africa’s Operation Phakisa, which represents a new spirit of moving faster in meeting government’s targets.

It is in this light that the Leadership Studies PhD study of Dr Sanele Gumede explored the untapped opportunities in the ocean economy in which South Africa can benefit. In terms of Operation Phakisa, the South African government’s starting point was that the country is surrounded by a vast ocean which has not fully taken advantage of given its immense potential. According to the Department of Environmental Affairs, the oceans have the potential to contribute up to R177 billion to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and create just over one million jobs by 2033.

Gumede’s maritime study titled: South Africa’s Seaport Governance and Pricing: Dilemmas and Reformswhich was supervised by Dr Mihalis Chasomeris, focuses on how with improved governance and pricing, the ocean would assist South Africa to grow, thus increasing employment. ‘My research was triggered by the potential contribution that our South African ports have in our economy. There are not many South African port governance and pricing research studies, for the obvious reason of data availability. Finding data has been the biggest challenge in my research and there was a lot of red tape around the data I required. At some point, I even considered changing the field but my vision of helping shape South Africa’s ports contribution to South Africa’s economy kept me going. My thesis achieves this by suggesting measures that should they be adopted will enhance South Africa’s port performance and competitiveness,’ he said.

The need for South African scholars to do research and come up with innovative solutions to South Africa’s problems is what drives Gumede. He is urging people to look at pursuing PhDs as a way of positively shaping the country.

‘Studying for a PhD has shaped me to be more innovative and question the status quo. The more PhD holders South Africa has, the more the country will be able to solve its own problems. Relying on scholars from other countries to find solutions to South Africa’s problems does not sit well with me. I am really grateful for my supervisor, Dr Chasomeris, who introduced me to the field of maritime economics and local and international economics conferences and societies. It is from these conferences that I received constructive criticism which helped in shaping my studies,’ said Gumede.

He said his family is excited about his academic achievement as he is the first member within his family to get a PhD. ‘During my first graduation, my mother asked about those special people that wear red gowns. At that time, it seemed like a mountain that I’d never climb. I am humbled by God’s blessing and favours as my parents are still alive to witness this moment. I dedicate this red gown to them,’ said Gumede.

Words: Thandiwe Jumo

Photograph: Rogan Ward