THE African Union (AU) during its 22nd summit January has set a period from 2015 – 2025 as the ‘Decade of African Seas and Oceans’ and the date July 25 as the African Day of Seas and Oceans.
The celebration of Africa Day of Seas and Oceans is one of the recommendations of the 2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS). The 2050 AIM Strategy provides a broad framework for the protection and sustainable exploitation of Seas and Oceans of Africa. Protecting the ocean is everyone’s business, and so the responsibility of every African.
Over 80 per cent of today’s international goods are transported in vessels and over 90 per cent of Africa’s imports and exports are conducted by sea.
Over the past four decades, the volume of global seaborne trade has more than quadrupled. Ninety per cent of world trade and two-thirds of energy supplies are carried by sea.
The world’s oceans and seas are interlinked, and action in one sea or one policy area with a direct or indirect impact on the sea may have positive or negative effects on other seas and policy areas.
Whilst over 46 per cent of Africans live in absolute poverty – a figure that is still rising – fish makes a vital contribution to the food and nutritional security of over 200 million Africans and provides income for over 10 million.
Coastal and marine ecosystems
The coastal and marine ecosystems play a significant role in mitigating the impacts of climate change as they could serve as carbon sinks.
The paradox is that the marine and coastal areas in Africa are among the most vulnerable areas to the impacts of climate change in the world, mainly attributed to the low adaptive capacity in the continent.
These negative effects have also been compounded by human carelessness and pollution as shown by the pollution of our waters by human wastefulness as shown by the dumping of plastic in our waterways. These have devastating consequences on marine life.
Maritime security is also one of the most significant dimensions of global and human security in general. It poses multi-dimensional threats to global security, and in turn has major effects on such essential issues as food, energy and economic security.
For the last decade, Africa has been the epicentre of international maritime insecurity. Piracy and armed robbery at sea have re-emerged in the modern era off the east and west coasts of Africa alike, this has caused enormous human and financial damage.
But we have also seen other breaches of maritime security on the rise in Africa’s seas: illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, toxic waste dumping, and human, weapons and narcotics trafficking.
Thus for Africa, the sustainable management of coastal and marine environments and resources is of utmost priority. The promotion of sustainable use of marine and coastal resources in Africa will significantly enhance food security, ensure constant economic growth and improve the quality of lives of the people in the coastal communities.
2050 AIM-Strategy, objectives
After years of struggling with these geostrategic challenges and opportunities, in 2012 at ministerial level, the African Union (AU) adopted the 2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy which we intentionally call 2050 “AIM”-Strategy to highlight the fact that this strategy is result-oriented. The overarching vision of the 2050 AIM-Strategy is to “foster increased wealth creation from Africa’s oceans and seas by developing the blue economy in a secure and environmentally sustainable manner. Our plans around the decade are therefore informed by the 2050 AIM-Strategy, which is dedicated to the memory of those Africans who died at sea trying to earn a better quality life. The strategy provides an opportunity for:
- a) A comprehensive understanding of existing and potential challenges, including allocation of resources to identified priorities over a pre-determined time-frame.
- b) A comprehensive, concerted, coherent and coordinated approach that improves maritime conditions with respect to environmental and socio-economic development as well as the capacity to generate wealth from sustainable governance of Africa’s seas and oceans.
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The implementation of the strategy will also assist with:
(1) Establishing a Combined Exclusive Maritime Zone for Africa (CEMZA);
(2) Enhancing wealth creation through building our countries’ maritime-centric capacity and capability;
(3) Ensuring security and safety in the African Maritime Domain;
(4) Minimizing environmental damage;
(5) Preventing hostile and criminal acts at sea, and prosecute offenders if necessary;
(6) Protecting the populations, Africa’s Maritime Domain (AMD) heritage and infrastructure in the African Maritime Domain;
(7) Promoting and protecting the interests of African shippers;
(8) Enhancing Africa’s competitiveness in international trade;
(9) Improving and facilitating intra-African trade as well as transit transport in landly connected countries; you would recall that as affirmed in the 2050 AIM-Strategy, there is no more “landlocked county” in Africa, but all AU Member States are “landly connected” to the seas and oceans.