Youth from one of South Africa’s most isolated coastal communities are receiving marine industry training in a project tied to the centennial celebration of Nelson Mandela’s birth.

The multimillion rand programme, which includes boat repair and marine tourism skills training, was launched last week by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA). It involves up-skilling previously marginalised youth in the remote Ingquza Municipal Area in the Eastern Cape Province, not far from Mandela’s birth place.

The initiative also forms part of SAMSA’s corporate social investment rural support programme.

“Owing to both historical and current socio-political dynamics, the rural communities here, although settled in an area that by some accounts is endowed with some of the world’s best natural resources, with massive maritime economic development potential; remain poor, marked by high unemployment rates,” SAMSA said in a statement released on their website to mark the occasion.

SAMSA chief operations officer Sobantu Tilayi said the programme aimed to generate public-private partnerships in the under-developed area, which forms a part of the so-called ‘Wild Coast’ between East London and Port Shepstone.

Speaking at the launch event, Tilayi said the intervention would aim to deliver “a set of maritime sector-related skills” to local youth, thereby enabling them to either set up their own businesses or find meaningful employment.

The three-month programme, to commence in September, would include a range of skills training including marine tourism, maritime heritage, boat repair, and entrepreneurship.  SAMSA has committed R3.5m funding for the startup phase.

Development training is considered a top priority for the South African maritime sector, which is seeking to increase the supply of scarce skills.