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Women must get on board shipping industry

Women’s participation in the world’s shipping industry must increase, Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma urges.
Speaking at the third Women in Shipping Conference in Durban last month, Dlamini Zuma, also the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, said getting more women involved in the male-dominated industry was a challenge for Africa and the world.
“Although women comprise at least 50% of the world’s population of approximately seven billion people, only 2% are estimated to be involved in international shipping,” she noted. Dlamini Zuma highlighted the importance of African Union member states implementing the provisions of the African Maritime Transport Charter, which includes the development and financing of the continental maritime industry.
The charter also includes the training and development of citizens, including women, to be part of this industry. The world economy cannot function without 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,” she said.
Despite this enormous effect on the world, she questioned whether the shipping industry was as effective as it could be, given that only a small fraction of women participated in it. Dlamini Zuma urged women 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, the Suez Canal and the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. Also, 50% of world trade between east and west comes through our coastline,” Dlamini Zuma said.
Africa is also rich 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 contains 30% of international mineral reserves. These goods are, however, unfortunately not transported on liners owned by 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 the provisions of this charter can be matched by action from member states. African leaders must recognise the need for cooperation, within the continent and beyond, as well as the value of training if the maritime industry were to be developed in Africa. This is a challenge for us all.”