This Wilton Park/Institute for Security Studies event examined African maritime security capacity and strategies, at a time when there is serious international interest to contribute further to African-led efforts to secure this ‘blue economy’.
Countries in Africa depend heavily on the sea as their primary means of getting goods to market. For example, with more than ninety percent of its trade seaborne, South Africa is dramatically dependent on a secure sea. This African ‘blue economy’ is under threat, and states on both coasts of Africa that depend heavily on sea borders face many maritime security challenges. Maritime security is a key component of collective security, and many countries across East and West Africa currently lack the ability to effectively police their territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs), the consequences of which are damaging to local communities, industry and tourism, and overall onshore stability. They also fuel a number of global security problems.
While indications are that incidents of piracy in the Horn of Africa are declining, seafarers are still at high risk, and many remain in captivity. Meanwhile criminality in the Gulf of Guinea including piracy and armed robbery at sea, trafficking and smuggling of drugs, people and arms, as well as related money laundering is increasing across porous land and sea borders. Illegal waste dumping, infrastructure protection and port security also constitute major concerns. The flow of money from maritime crime into political systems can undermine state effectiveness and legitimacy, and can seriously impact national economies.
The 2014 African Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS-2050) serves as the overarching framework for African maritime strategies to confront these challenges and goes beyond simply a counter piracy agenda. It covers economic, social, environmental and security dimensions, and aims to foster more wealth creation from Africa’s coast and rivers to realise their full potential. There are also a large number of national and regional maritime strategies, and concerted international interest and support for African maritime security. However, there are important issues of how to achieve synergies, promote complementary rather than duplicative approaches, coherence, and coordination on the part of both African organisations and countries and international donors and partners. To effectively combat criminality, leadership and coordination are needed to avoid replication, facilitate and efficiently resource joint projects and encourage self-sustaining local ownership over the security of territorial waters and maritime domains, encompassing the full range of maritime criminal challenges.
- promoted awareness on the continent and internationally of the full range of stakes involved in African maritime security;
- supported African leadership and build on the key linkages between national, regional and continental maritime strategies;
- examined and recommend key next steps to develop African maritime security capacity and further implement African maritime security strategies;
- took relevant lessons from other parts of the continent to share best practice;
- identified gaps in international donor support and coordination not recognised or addressed by regional platforms, and prioritise areas most important and productive to address.