Illegal fishing and bunkering have cost the African continent a sum of $300 billion in the past five decades, according to the Chairperson of the African Union, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. The AU Chairperson disclosed this at the summit of Heads of States and Governments of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC), which focuses on maritime safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea.
The summit comes hot in the heels of Inter Region Economic Network’s 10th Africa Resource Bank meeting which urged Africa to tap into the benefits arising from the ongoing reorganization in the Oceans surrounding the continent for prosperity.
Thirty-eight of Africa’s 54 countries are either coastal or island states with a coastal line of 26 000 nautical miles. The continent boasts of more than 100 ports, of which 52 handle containers and numerous forms of cargo. In spite of this, no single port in Africa ranks among the 70 most productive in the world and many operate at below-optimal capacity. The oceans surrounding Africa present socio-economic and political opportunities that must urgently be explored by actors from the both private and public sectors. The Indian Ocean for example, is one of the twenty-first century’s leading strategic trade, food, energy and security theatres. The AU has rightly observed and cautioned that the incursion on resources of the continent cannot be allowed to continue.
In this light, Africa must evolve an African maritime policy that captures the interests of both the countries that border the oceans and those who receive goods through the same ocean. The existing policies should not only be aligned to this policy, but also operationalized. Africa’s natural resource endowment supplemented by its strategic location presents great negotiation prospects with respect to participation in global systems. This advantage must not be squandered.