By Augustine Ehikioya
To facilitate Africa’s maritime security and boost the continent’s blue economy, an international symposium has called for continental approach to handle the issues.
To this end, the symposium wants States, African Union (AU), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Southern African Development Community (SADC) to embark on holistic and collective maritime security efforts and propagate awareness of Blue Economy initiatives.
This was part of the communique issued at the end of two-day international symposium held as Stellenbosch University, South Africa.
It was co-hosted by the Security Watch Africa Initiatives (SWAI), Nigeria, and the Centre for Military Studies (CEMIS) from Stellenbosch University, South Africa, 4th to 5th of May, 2023.
The theme of the symposium was “Blue Ocean Economy and Maritime Security in Africa: Challenges and Prospects for Agenda 2063”
For the two days, Chiefs of Naval Staff from African countries, experts, military officers and other players in the maritime and security sector on the African continent converged at the STIAS Conference Centre, Stellennosch University, South Africa and brainstormed on how best to reposition and improve blue water economy and maritime security on the African continent.
Various resource persons made presentations all aimed at exploring the experiences of African Navies in unlocking and enhancing the potential of Blue Economies in Africa.
It also assisted in fostering inter-naval co-operations and relationships among the subregional organizations of the continent such as the Gulf of Guinea, ECOWAS and SADC.
The communique reads “To guarantee Africa’s Maritime Security and enhanced Blue Economy, Africa requires a whole-of-continent approach.
“Therefore, States, African Union (AU), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Southern African Development Community (SADC) should embrace holistic and collective maritime security efforts, deploy technology, prosecute transgressors of transnational laws, and propagate awareness of Blue Economy initiatives.
“The Symposium recognises the importance of the oceans as an engine for global economic prosperity and stability. The Symposium further acknowledges the relationship between Africa’s Blue Economy and Maritime Security, hence the need for concerted efforts at improving African Blue Economy and Maritime Security through collaborative efforts among the African countries.
“That the Symposium noted with concern that our continent is bedevilled with many of challenges within the maritime environment, hence the need to address these challenges as opportunities for collective efforts to elevate the African Agenda 2063.
“That the Symposium called on African countries and continental economic communities to collaborate deeper and look for African centric solutions to address African Economy and Maritime Security challenges, by building on the strengths, capacities, experiences and potentials of African States.”
It added “That the Symposium recognises that globalisation hinges on the Blue Economy and Maritime Security and no Nation can stand alone. Therefore, African countries, should devote more time and resources to sustain Blue Economy and Maritime Security.
“To address maritime security challenges, African maritime entities should strengthen their collaboration and synergy on research and development, information sharing and operational capabilities.
“That African countries should pursue integrated, all-encompassing maritime strategies that are aligned with continental and regional security architectures through collaborative efforts, joint inter-government, inter-agency and military exercises and policing of the maritime environment,” the communique stated.
Shedding light on the symposium’s hosts, it said “The Security Watch Africa Initiative (SWAI) was established in 1997 with the primary objectives of monitoring, collecting, analysing, and broadcasting security issues on the African continent, for public awareness and policy making.
“To further encourage professionalism and intellectual engagements among African military, security forces, and all stakeholders, holds annual conferences, international symposium, and award ceremonies on African security in different parts of the world to celebrate and showcase the continent’s military and security forces’ accomplishments and enhance friendship, as well as military cooperation among Africans.
“It is in this light that SWAI and the Centre for Military Studies (CEMIS), Stellenbosch University, South Africa, held a 2-day International Symposium on the African Blue Ocean Economy and Maritime Security held at the STIAS Conference Centre, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa from 4th – 5th May 2023.
“The Symposium was cognisant that successful attainment of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 objectives is premised on sustainable peace and security on the continent.
“This requires coordinated efforts on all fronts across the continent. This is in recognition that most of the programmes and associated outcomes of the continent’s developmental agenda are linked to its ocean waters, this is mindful that, the sea is an important line of communication and a unifier of mankind.”
It revealed that the symposium explored various aspects of the Blue Economy and potential roles navies and other security agencies of the various African countries play in conjunction with public and private sector entities to ensure security within the continent’s ocean waters.
There were presentations on six thematic issues; Maritime Trade and global linkages, Maritime Law and “Blue water” Crime enforcement, Naval tasks in the Blue Economy, the Role of technology in untangling Departmental Mandates in a multi-domain maritime environment (disconnects in African legislative frameworks), Promoting Good Order at Sea: Opportunity for Naval Co-operation and Enhancing Co-operation and harmonization of African solutions at Sea (Regulatory and legal frameworks).
The lead speaker at the two-day symposium was Nigeria’s Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo. In his presentation, he dwelled on the effort of the Nigerian Navy in enhancing Nigeria’s maritime security through joint collaborative efforts with other services, security agencies, stakeholders and other international organizations and navies of other countries.
He also stated that the Nigerian Navy developed measures towards ensuring the safety of the country’s maritime domain for a sustainable Blue Economy.
Thereafter he noted that Blue Economy security in Africa would require a whole-of-continent approach towards proffering solutions to maritime insecurity.
He recommended that holistic collective maritime security efforts, deployment of technology, prosecution of transnational maritime offenders, awareness of sustainable Blue Economy initiative as well as enhanced research and development are key towards effective security of Blue Economy in Africa.
He concluded by stating that “Africa is endowed, blessed, and has all it takes to move to the next level of prosperity for global recognition. Therefore, all we need do is collectively synergise to actualise the development of Africa by Africans.”
During his Keynote address, the South African Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Monde Lobese, who was represented by the South African Navy’s Director of Maritime Security, Vice Admiral David M. Mkhonto highlighted the importance of the sea to humanity hence the need for the African continent to take advantage of that and enhance its blue economy and maritime security.
He further stated that the blue ocean economy and African maritime security are very important as both are closely related as globalisation hinges on the blue economy and maritime security.
He said that it was now time to devote more resources and time to these issues, more so as no single nation or institution can do it alone, and therefore, all stakeholders must come together and fashion out the way forward to enhance Africa’s blue economy and maritime security.
Noting that the maritime environment is complex, he said, nonetheless, it presents more that has opportunities than challenges.
During the interactive sessions, and syndicate discussions, the symposium further noted the challenges, implications and opportunities associated with the blue ocean economy and maritime security on the African continent and then released an 8-point communique.
The symposium was attended by key players on blue economy and maritime security on the African continent that includes legislators, diplomats, senior military officers, and other stakeholders on blue economy and African maritime security, such as the Nigerian High Commissioner to South Africa, His Excellency, Amb. Muhammad Haruna Manta, amongst others.