MARITIME EXPERTS from West, East and Southern Africa gathered at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 7 and 8 May to deliberate on the state of African maritime security. They found the world of maritime security complex, and its management challenging. Complexities seemed to include:
- The geo-politics of energy: a new scramble for Africa’s scarce resources
- The importance of Sea Lanes of Communication, and strategic choke points
- Piracy, poor port security, smuggling, and organised crime syndicates
- Terror and counter-terrorism measures
- The environment, and fishing resources
- ‘Sea blindness’: the inability or unwillingness of major player as well as citizens in general to appreciate the value of the seas and oceans and the need for their protection and promotion
- The unsustainable exploitation of Africa’s maritime assets by the private sector, multinational corporations, powerful states, organised criminal syndicates and combinations of these players
- Issues of governance and state capacity that result in the poor management of Africa’s maritime assets.
An ever-increasing feature of the African maritime domain related to global interest. Increasing interdependence and exploitation were seen as flipsides of the globalisation coin. A worst-case scenario spells out how Africans lose agency and the ability to set agendas.
Workshop participants identified enhanced cooperation for effective African maritime governance as the appropriate response. The national effort to protect and promote maritime assets ought to be supported by cooperation on three multilateral levels: the global (UN), continental (AU) and sub-regional (ECCAS, ECOWAS, IGAD and SADC). Enhanced cooperation issues were thought to include:
- The need to develop a better understanding of multi-level cooperation dynamics involving varying coalitions of state and non-state players
- Similarly, the need to develop a better understanding of the roles and responsibilities of states and non-state actors involved in enhanced cooperation
- The need for a rigorous audit and evaluation of African policies, strategies and legal frameworks, and recommendations for harmonisation where necessary
- Research into the question of whether lead nations complicate or enhance cooperation, and to what effect
- Similarly, the need to better understand the exercise of hard and soft power, public diplomacy, and breaking the sea-blindness spell (if it exists at all)
- The need for document management
- Finding a balance between external and domestic sources of support
- Training, education and research for increased understanding, improved management, effective and efficient implementation of policies and strategies, and effective governance, oversight and evaluation.
Workshop participants concluded that the ultimate purpose of enhanced African maritime cooperation should be to provide security and stability in support of the continent’s sustainable growth and development agendas. To enjoy maximum credibility, African maritime security policies and strategies must demonstrate relevance to the continent’s socio-economic and development agenda, inspired by the human security approach.
The workshop was organised by SADSEM and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. This report was written by the programme co-ordinator, Prof Anthoni van Nieuwkerk of Wits University.
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