STUTTGART, Germany, Oct 15, 2010 (U.S. AFRICOM Public Affairs) — Long-term, sustainable approaches at sea and on land backed by international collaboration were consistent themes at the 2010 Maritime Safety and Security Towards Economic Prosperity Conference in Stuttgart, Germany, October 13-14, 2010.
“The conference has enabled us to have an in-depth discussion on one of the most important issues facing the world today: How to improve maritime safety and security in order to ensure economic prosperity for all and to have an enhanced dignity for African people, through sustainable governance of Africa’s maritime domain,” said Ambassador John K. Shinkaiye, the African Union Commission chief of staff, during the conference’s closing session.
The two-day, international event was sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and Department of Defense. It featured a 15-member delegation from the African Union Commission, headed by H.E. Erastus Mwencha, the AUC deputy chairperson. More than 170 delegates attended from 19 African and five European nations, along with representatives from international maritime-focused organizations, academic institutions, and the private sector. The conference was hosted by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM).
“We have listened, with great appreciation, to the many views expressed during the Conference and the very helpful proposals (and) recommendations made,” Shinkaiye said. “I believe that from the presentations made by the African Union Commission, you will believe me when I say that we are in harmony with the observations and the recommendations made.”
Responding to the increase in maritime threats to Africa over the years, the AU has begun developing Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy, or AIM-Strategy. Maritime threats and interests reach well beyond the coastlines of Africa, underscoring the need for international responses and stronger partnerships, Shinkaiye said.
While multinational task forces patrol for pirates in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean, partnership and capacity-building activities occur off the West Coast of Africa through the Africa Partnership Station and African Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership program.
These activities support common objectives of enhancing the capacity of African maritime forces and institutions, enforcing laws, and addressing a full range of maritime crimes, such as drug trafficking, illegal fishing and piracy, according to U.S. and AU officials.
“In many important ways, the future of Africa is very much connected with the waters that surround us,” Shinkaiye said. “But, to fully realize this promise of development, Africa must meet the many threats and challenges that emanate from the seas. Too many of our citizens perish at sea – the victims of human traffickers. Too much of our fish is stolen by foreign vessels thereby endangering our food security. Too much of our oil is stolen by unscrupulous individuals and organizations, thereby, depriving us of precious resources. Too many ships dump nuclear and toxic wastes in our waters, leading to death and disease for quite a few Africans. Too many pirates roam our waters and disrupt our maritime connections with the rest of the world, thereby hampering trade and increasing the cost of doing business in Africa.”
Because Africa is surrounded by some of the world’s most important shipping lanes, maritime challenges are most appropriately addressed by international partnerships, Shinkaiye said.
“We hope this is the beginning of a sustained and productive partnership,” Shinkaiye said of the conference. “The AU is working towards a conference of this type to be held in Africa and to focus on the specific steps we must take on the ground, especially at the regional and national levels, to further our engagement to ensure that Africa can derive positive benefits from our work on maritime challenges and opportunities.”
The following transcripts, presentations, and articles from the conference are posted on the U.S. Africa Command website:
PDF file (1MB) of Keynote address by African Union Commission Deputy Chairperson Dr. Erastus Mwencha, “THE GEOSTRATEGIC IMPORTANCE OF AFRICA’S MARITIME DOMAIN: OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES,” with slides, October 13, 2010.