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South Africa gears up for active participation in Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA)

By Nicole du Plessis, Project Officer, SAEON Egagasini Node
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The 22nd Meeting of the Indian Ocean Rim Association Academic Group (IORAG) was held in Jakarta, Indonesia on 12 October 2016.

Delegates came from as far afield as Australia, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Kenya, Malaysia, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka and the United Arab Emirates. The meeting was also attended by representatives of the Regional Centre for Science and Technology Transfer (RCSTT) and the Chair in Indian Ocean Studies.


Delegates attending the 22nd Meeting of the Indian Ocean Rim Academic Group held in Indonesia on 12 October 2016

Preparing for chairship

As South Africa will be taking over chairship of IORA in 2017, it was decided to send a number of scientific experts participating in the South African Chapter of IORAG, which will serve as an advisory body towards realising the priorities of IORA and South Africa. As the recently appointed SA-IORAG coordinator, SAEON’s Nicole du Plessis attended the meeting to acquaint herself with the functioning of the international IORAG.

Other South African representatives were from the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO). Prof. Narnia Bohler-Muller of the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) currently represents South Africa on the Academic Group in the position of Vice-Chair.

With the meeting assuming the format of a high-level report-back by government representatives on country participation and future workshops and conferences, and not experts discussing the various priority areas, the programme allowed time for networking.

Prof. Bohler-Muller gave an update on the Blue Economy Working Group, which has already held two workshops and will have a final workshop next year. South Africa also provided an update on preparations for the Second IORA Water Science and Technology Core Group Workshop in collaboration with Sri Lanka - this is being facilitated from South Africa’s side by the Water Research Commission (WRC). The Secretariat updated delegates on the International Indian Ocean Expedition-2 (IIOE-2) and member states were encouraged to participate. In this regard a regional approach was recommended.

The meeting proved to be a meaningful introduction to the functioning of IORAG as well as South Africa’s responsibilities when it takes over the chairship in October 2017.

Priority areas for IORA:

  • Maritime safety and security - geo-strategic issues and non-traditional security threats;
  • Trade and investment facilitation;
  • Fisheries management - fisheries and aquaculture;
  • Disaster and risk management;
  • Tourism and cultural exchanges;
  • Academic cooperation, science and technology;
  • Blue economy (cross-cutting theme); and
  • Women’s empowerment (cross-cutting theme).

For more information on IORA and the South African Chapter of the IORAG please see:


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