Press release for ‘Implementing Africa’s maritime security strategies’

7 May, 2015

We have just concluded a major event held in South Africa in partnership with ISS-Africa on implementing African maritime security strategies.

Wilton Park and ISS have issued the following press release:

A cure for sea blindness

“African countries must overcome their sea blindness to tackle maritime threats and develop a marine economy worth up to a trillion dollars a year.

38 African countries have a combined coastline of more than 26,000 nautical miles (47,000 km). More than 90% of Africa’s trade is seaborne, fishing contributes to food security for more than 200 million Africans, and vast oil and gas potential lies off the coast.

Yet this ‘blue economy’ is underdeveloped and threatened; and African states lack the ability to monitor and secure their waters.

“Africa has a strategy to protect and benefit from its oceans; now it needs political will and committed resources to make it happen,” Institute for Security Studies (ISS) researcher Timothy Walker told a conference on implementing Africa’s maritime security strategies.

The high-level event organised by UK policy forum Wilton Park and the ISS gathered researchers, diplomats and naval leaders from 21 countries and international organisations.

“Africa’s seas should contribute to economic and environmental security, but are too often a story of stolen resources, drowning refugees and missed opportunities,” said Walker.

Piracy remains a threat, while drug smuggling and illegal fishing are increasing. Additional threats come from boundary disputes, conflict over resources, smuggling and human trafficking. Illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing is estimated to cost sub-Saharan Africa approximately US$1 billion a year. Thousands of tons of hazardous waste are dumped at sea.

Africa has more than 100 ports, many operating below capacity. African-owned ships account for less than 1,2% of the world`s shipping.

“Much of Africa lacks a maritime culture and is blind to the ocean`s importance to its development. More often than not it leaves others to profit from its rich marine resources.”

The AU’s Agenda 2063 sees the marine economy as a major contributor to growth, and Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy 2050 (AIMS 2050) recognises the vast wealth creation potential of Africa’s oceans, lakes and rivers.

Adopted in 2014, AIMS 2050 covers fishing, oil & gas, security, piracy, pollution, biodiversity, transport and harbours; and calls for marine education and development of an African ship-building industry.

AIMS 2050 proposes a combined African maritime zone, and prevention of pollution and piracy. It seeks capacity building in marine defence, scientific research, tourism, fisheries, maintenance and building of harbours, and a pan-African fleet.

“But you can’t protect your fish, stop pirates or build a maritime economy by waving a strategy,” Walker says. “Governments must show political will, identify priorities and start delivering on the maritime strategy.”

Maritime strategies adopted by West African and southern African states are important building blocks towards effective implementation of AIMS 2050. East Africa has a strategy under development.

Maritime threats are transnational so collective action is essential. “No single country can secure its maritime domain on its own.” Walker said.

The event, from 4-7 May 2015, aimed to promote awareness of African maritime security, and assist its implementation by African governments. It was supported by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Defence Command Denmark, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oceans Beyond Piracy, and the TK Foundation.

Further information

Conference: Implementing Africa’s maritime security strategies (2015)

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