Vodacom South Africa, WWF recommit to finding tech solutions to preserve oceans

12th May 2023 By: Natasha Odendaal - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

Vodacom South Africa and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) South Africa have recommitted to their decade-long first-of-its-kind global partnership to leverage technology and the education to protect Africa’s oceans.

The partnership enables the organisations to find ways of using technology to mitigate challenges impacting on the oceans and create a more sustainable and healthier marine future for all, with Vodacom using its resources to support the development of technological solutions that address conservation challenges unique to South Africa.

“Preserving our oceans is critically important. Not only is fishing a crucial source of food and employment in coastal towns, but the oceans also play a significant role in combating climate change and promoting tourism in South Africa,” says Vodacom South Africa external affairs chief officer Takalani Netshitenzhe, noting that several factors, including overfishing, illegal and unregulated fishing, pollution and climate change, are threatening the stability and health of the crucial ecosystem.

The focus of the duo’s various collaboration projects will be driving awareness of marine ecosystems and ocean literacy under the WWF-South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI), helping to address sustainable patterns of consumption and production to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for the benefit of future generations.

Fish is one of the most traded commodities in the world, with more than 50% of trade originating from developing countries and, while the fishing industry accounts for less than 1% of South Africa’s gross domestic product, the ocean is an important strategic sector for food security, employment and environmental impact in South Africa and across Africa, a report by the Southern Africa Development Community–European Union Economic Partnership Agreement shows.

Further, marine ecosystems, such as the kelp forests found off the coast of the Western Cape, sequester up to 20 times more carbon dioxide per acre than land forests, making them critical to the fight against climate change.

The renewal of the partnership, which started with collaboration in South Africa in 2010, prioritises the conservation of the oceans and will bring to life two important projects designed to protect them.

The first of the partners’ projects, comprising the development and growth of innovative technologies, digital decision-making tools and platforms designed to drive change in the seafood value chain, is well under way.

“These tools will be deployed through the Vodacom network, including tapping into the existing Vodacom Foundation schools network, starting with schools in coastal areas, with the aim of enhancing awareness among the youth, shifting behaviour among young influencers, consumers and role models to create a generation well versed in ocean literacy and sustainable seafood,” explains Netshitenzhe.

This project has already attracted global interest by displaying how technology can be used to drive environmental education and awareness.

“Education has always been a key consideration for the Vodacom Foundation. Digitally enabled education holds immense power, especially in today’s digital economy,” Netshitenzhe says, adding that smart technologies, such as the WWF-SASSI application, are enabling more environment-conscious choices.