The importance of maritime education in the development of the Sub-saharan Africa has been stressed. This observation was made by the President of the Association of African Universities (AAU), Professor Olusola Oyewole, at the just-concluded 2014 African Maritime Domain Conference, held in Port-Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, South Africa, with the theme, “The African Maritime Domain: Building Capacity and Developing Policy”.

Presenting a paper tagged “The role of African Universities in marine and maritime Training, Education, Research and Innovation”, Professor Oyewole said the overarching vision of the conference’s strategy was to “foster increased wealth creation from Africa’s oceans and seas by developing a sustainable, thriving, blue economy in a secure and environmentally-suitable manner”.

He noted that even though water affected man’s everyday life, the continent was blessed with a vast coastal line of over 26,000 nautical miles. Many African nations also depended on the sea and sea resources for most of their energy needs, food supplies and water commercial transportation activities, with over 90 per cent of Africa’s imports and exports conducted by sea, saying the ability of African nations to exploit the resources and potentials of the maritime domain depended on the skill of the African maritime professionals. “Today, our water bodies are facing challenges ranging from human wickedness through piracy, and other unexplainable phenomena such as climate change, for which we need a well-trained work-force to help us unravel. We need to ensure a safe and secured Maritime and riverine environment, managed by well-trained maritime professionals”, he stated.

The AAU President defined maritime education as the field of studies and training connected with the marine domain and industries that can be broadly categorised into two major sectors – the primary and secondary sectors – such as fisheries, pharmaceuticals and aquaculture, off-shore energy, mining, shipping logistics, marine technologies, marine business services, marine security and regulations, as well as Naval defence. According to him, training and education in marine-related studies can be obtained from four major sources such as shipping companies, private providers, public institutions and specialised marine Universities. He noted that for many years and across many countries, maritime education area was dominated by the shipping companies and private providers. This made many learners to be at risk in terms of the quality and contents of their trainings as public institutions that offered maritime education were for many years restricting to only post-secondary educational delivery providers by offering Diplomas and Certificates in some fields of marine services. He, however, observed that training at the University level emanated from non-marine specialised departments such as Engineering, Science, and Management among others. Some of these early maritime training centres in African are located in Algeria, Ethiopia, Egypt, Ghana, Mozambique and Nigeria.

The focus of learning in the Maritime domain goes beyond theory. It is a field where skills and competences are essential. Every day, new technologies are emerging and the industry keeps facing new challenges connected with safety and pollution. These are demanding for new competences and the need to set high standards in the human capacity development. Maritime education training institutions, therefore, would have to keep track with latest developments. African institutions must make extra efforts to benchmark with their overseas counterparts to regularly review their curricula, update their training facilities, and improve the quality of their staff and management to be able to meet the requirements of the industries. The African maritime domain is facing many challenges including dumping of toxic wastes, illegal fishing and mounting insecurity. These maritime challenges require well-coordinated research strategies to combat them. The resources of the Africa’s maritime domain cannot be well exploited if specific researches are not targeted rightly. In addition, the following are urgently requested for the establishment and strengthening of national, regional, and continental maritime research and development centres required for the promotion of cooperation in research and training between institutions, industry and the government, at both national and regional levels, collaboration with other countries outside Africa, through research staff exchange, and research collaborations.

All the innovations desired for driving the human capacity development in the maritime domain will require funds. Adequate funding mechanisms need to be developed to drive the research needs for the maritime domain. Special Professorial Chairs should be funded in universities where maritime studies are undertaken.

He noted that there was a large number of educational providers in Africa’s maritime domain. Many of the providers are commercial entities and the trainings being offered are targeted at meeting some selected needs. Many players in the industries train their personnel on the job and some of the training programs are not certified. These do not give room to good human mobility in the industry. In order to meet the 2050 Africa Integrated Maritime Strategy, there is the need for the establishment of a continental body to develop an acceptable qualification framework for the industry, which will accommodate the current players as such body, will also be required to coordinate and drive the capacity development agenda in the field. The relevancy and adequacy of the curriculum is one of the major challenges that maritime educational institutions face in Africa. Unlike other field of studies in the continent, development in the maritime industries and the challenges facing the industry demand that the human capacity in the field be able to keep pace with them.

“Maritime institutions and programmes need to keep pace with the rapid developments taking place in the industries. There is a need for good collaboration between the government higher education regulators, the private sector and the civil society to collaborate in organising regular reviews of the maritime education systems. Maritime education institutions need to meet up the requirements of the national regulatory agencies to which they belong as well as those of the industries that they service”, the President said.

He equally stressed the importance of research in Universities “because there is a close and indispensable relationship between research and teaching. Special funds will be needed to invest in and finance stablished programmes for education and training in relevant maritime skills and for upgrading maritime professionals in all areas of the maritime and ports industry”.

Professor Oyewole stressed the need for African nations to promote the development of highly skilled professionals to man the industry, stressing that maritime education and awareness was very critical to African development, saying that Universities had important roles to play in ensuring capacity building and serving as platforms of education for marine and marine economy, business, safety, research, education and training. He further said that Universities should be at the forefront of the movement for knowledge, research, innovation, and safety of the marine domain. The African universities should be the engine of knowledge for our marine domain, serving as the forum of exchange of knowledge on marine safety, marine regulations as Universities should serve as fora for Africa-based research and development by working closely with the maritime industry.

The Vice-Chancellor said the AAU was the apex higher education organisation in Africa, which serves as the principal forum for consultation, exchange of information and cooperation among African Universities. He said the vision of AAU was to be the representative voice of the African higher education community both within and outside Africa while its mission, to raise the quality of higher education and strengthen its contribution to African development by fostering collaboration among its members, providing support to their core functions of teaching, learning, research and community engagement, facilitating critical reflection on, and consensus building around, issues affecting higher education and development. Africa, therefore, needs well-trained human resources for the implementation of this strategy. Universities and other institutions for knowledge generation therefore have important roles to play. Professor Oyewole added that the AAU was willing to support African Universities in capacity building, teaching and learning, as well as research in the fields connected with the Africa marine domain, in line with the 2050 Africa Integrated Maritime Agenda.

Last Updated on December 16, 2014 by admin

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