Attorney by day, solution-driven executive chair of FishSA by night, powerhouse Loyiso Phantshwa has strong and exciting views on the economic opportunities that exist for the people of South Africa, in the fishing sector and beyond.
With the drive to bring people together, Loyiso believes in the power of working collaboratively to transform the fishing sector he is so passionate about. A firm believer in the word we, this dynamo legal eagle admits his position at the helm of the apex association of fisheries “is not a job that one person can do” alone.
Everyone has a role to play, a perspective and a vision, in his view. The key is ensuring that all the divergent views around the table are heard and that’s a big job when you have 12 affiliated associations under FishSA, all with different constituencies and goals.
It’s a bit like South Africa, Loyiso says. “Post-1994 South Africa is a product of dialogue and that’s what delivers the balance. When you build sufficient levels of trust and relationships with stakeholders, even when you don’t see eye-to-eye, there’s going to be an opening of doors and you start understanding what drives decision making so that you can get to a point of consensus.”
It’s almost impossible not to get swept along the tide of his enthusiasm as he talks about the opportunities that exist. “The sea offers opportunity,” he explains, not only because of fishing, but because of the “many other things” that are dependent on the fishing sector flourishing.
“Look at those communities in rural towns that rely on the fishing sector, the factories inland further down the value chain. Most people think that fishing is a little boat in the sea and have no idea what process was followed to get the fish from the sea to the plate,” explains Loyiso.
He talks passionately about the SMMEs who don’t take to the sea but are part of the value chain and for whom the success of the fishing sector is so vital. “It’s job creation and preservation for the people who benefit down the road. It’s the people who design and clean factory uniforms, the logistics sector, the packaging sector, even boat building. This business is so important to them.”
When Loyiso speaks, you feel the opportunities are endless and know a bright future lies ahead. Indeed, for women too who are seeking to gain a foothold in this traditionally male-dominated sector.
“Is it not ironic that we refer to ‘Mother Nature’, but it’s the men who work there? That doesn’t make sense,” Loyiso chuckles, before driving home his belief that South Africa should be aspiring to place women in leadership roles in the fishing sector, which needs to show that it is transformed, or at the very least committed to the ideals of transformation.
“As a leader, you cannot shy away from the ideas of women being in managerial or executive positions. Our diversity in South Africa is a strength”, and we need to tap into that – “these ideals must form the basis of our discussions”.
After all, Loyiso concludes: “We want to be able to inspire our daughters and say, if they want to be a skipper of a big fishing vessel, a floating factory, they can do it!”