It's time for Africa to start using its ocean waters as a resource to create jobs and stimulate its economies, says former African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
"Somebody said in jest Africans are afraid of the sea, and he said maybe when they were running away from being taken away as slaves they used to look towards the sea," she joked.
Dlamini-Zuma was speaking at the offices of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad) in Johannesburg, after the ANC Women's League and the ANC Youth League held welcome celebrations for her at OR Tambo International Airport to mark her official return to South Africa, after being chairperson of the African Union Commission for four years.
Dlamini-Zuma, who has been touted by some in the ANC as the party's next leader, spoke about issues around women in leadership and youth unemployment. She told those gathered at the event that countries that relied on their ocean economies had more equal societies.
"If you take Norway; its entire economy is based on the sea and [as in] many prosperous countries it's where there is almost equality. You don't see the gaps between the poor and the rich, women and men," she explained.
She said it was time for Africans to start using the sea as a resource.
Ocean economy ignored
"If you look at a satellite picture of our ocean, there is a lot of activity but it's not us," said Dlamini-Zuma.
She said the vessels operating on the continent's waters did not belong to African countries.
"We as Africans export a lot, import a lot; but who is carrying those imports and exports? It's other people. Why?" she asked.
She said the ocean economy had been ignored in the fight against unemployment.
"You see, I am from the coast. People arrive in big ships, come out and take photos of us and they go back into those big ships and then they leave."
Africans need to reclaim that space for themselves, she told guests.
The ANC Women's League has said it has plans for Dlamini-Zuma which are likely to revolve around intensifying her campaign to become the ANC's first female president.