Sustainable Use of Africa’s Oceans and Seas

Eromosele Abiodun examines the outcome of the Association of African Maritime Administrations conference held in Abuja and posited that sustainable use of oceans and seas will boost the economy of Africa and pull millions out of poverty

In recent years, before the global financial crisis, international trade had increased exponentially. While African countries also benefited from this increase, their share in world trade had remained low, and accounted for only about three per cent of world exports. This poor trade performance was partly due to trade protection outside Africa against African products, but it also stemmed from constraints that inhibited trade within Africa. With the expectation of a generally moderate recovery of the global economy and of world trade, it is even more important than before to foster African countries’ trade with economies both outside and inside Africa. This is so because Africa remains one of the poorest continents in the world and its gross domestic products remain one of the lowest. There seems to be no way out.

A recent report by the African Development Bank (AFDB) revealed that a significant decline in Africa’s poverty will require the continent’s GDP to grow at an overall average of 7 per cent. In order to achieve this goal, experts believe it is of paramount importance that Africa’s international trade continues and strengthens its current development. To do this, analysts contended that Africa must make effective use of its oceans and seas. Oceans, seas and coastal areas form an integrated and essential component of the Earth’s ecosystem are critical to sustainable development. They cover more than two-thirds of the earth’s surface and contain 97 per cent of the planet’s water. Oceans contribute to poverty eradication by creating sustainable livelihoods and decent work. Over three billion people depend on marine and coastal resources for their livelihoods. In addition, oceans are crucial for global food security and human health. They are also the primary regulator of the global climate, an important sink for greenhouse gases and they provide humans water and the oxygen they breathe. Finally, oceans host huge reservoirs of biodiversity.

In order for oceans, seas and marine resources to successfully contribute to human well-being, ecosystem integrity, with properly functioning biogeochemical and physical processes, is required. This does not require unperturbed systems, but systems that have not suffered serious or irreversible harm. Ecosystem integrity allows for the provision of so-called supporting ecosystem services which, in turn, are the bases of important regulating, provisioning and cultural ecosystem services that are of crucial importance for humans. Whereas the benefits provided by oceans, seas and marine resources are important to all people, the poor, indigenous peoples, and vulnerable groups with a high dependency on natural resources and ecosystem services may have their well-being especially tied to these benefits. The link between oceans, seas and marine resources and human well-being is not one-sided. While an increase in human well-being is frequently generated at the cost of ecosystem integrity, it can also potentially reduce the negative anthropocentric impacts on the marine environment, for example due to a more sustainable use of resources, changes in production and consumption patterns and improved management and control of human activities. In order for this to happen, good governance and an enabling environment are however required.


AAMA Takes Charge 

To this end, 33 African maritime administrators, under the auspices of the Association of African Maritime Administrations (AAMA) gathered in Nigeria’s capital Abuja recently to chart a new course on how to make effective use of Africa’s seas and oceans.

The theme of the conference was: “Sustainable Use of Africa’s Oceans and Seas.”

The representatives of the following member administrations attended the conference: Mauritania, South Sudan, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, Comoros, Cape Verde, Djibouti, Benin, DR Congo, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Kenya, Guinea, Libya and Nigeria.

To achieve inclusive participation in global trade, the  maritime administrators in attendance agreed that African countries must have the political will to facilitate trade through: transparency, simplicity of trade documentation and procedures, elimination or reduction of red-tapes (bureaucracy) and adequacy of and implementation of applicable laws.

They also agreed to devote concerted effort and planning to pursue the enhancement of wealth creation, and regional and international trade performance through maritime-centric capacity and capability building.

They pledged to the minimisation of environmental damage and expedited recovery from catastrophic events, prevention of hostile and criminal acts at sea, and coordination/harmonisation of the prosecution of offenders.

They also agreed to ensure population protection, including assets and critical infrastructure from maritime pollution and prevention of dumping of toxic and nuclear waste, improvement of Integrated Coastal Zone/Area Management in Africa and promotion of ratification, domestication and implementation of international instruments.

To address the enormous challenges of building human capacities in the maritime sector especially regarding training and employment of cadets, maritime administrations were advised to develop an integrated human resources strategy for the maritime sector to support the provision of skills taking into account gender balance in the entire maritime value chain which includes shipping and logistics, offshore activities, fishing, tourism and recreation, and safety and security (AIMS 2050).

Fiscal Incentives

The administrators urged African government to provide fiscal incentives to attract vessels to their respective ship registry.

According to them, “Governments should adopt the Port State Measures Agreement and to consider taking immediate actions to implement and enforce the measures. Strengthen the legal and governance framework for monitoring and control of fishing activities on a national and regional basis. Governments must develop measures in addition to FAO guidelines to protect our exclusive economic zone and territorial waters from illegal, unlawful unreported fishing by foreign fishing trawlers.

“Members are encouraged to re-enforce regional cooperation and coordination, enhance information sharing and regulatory governance among members to combat the menace of piracy and other maritime crimes while maintaining a balance between security and the facilitation of global trade. AAMA is urged to identify and carry out capacity building exercises for member nations according to their needs.”

The maritime administrators pledged to facilitate the ratification and adoption of the African Maritime Transport Charter and the 2017 Lome Charter.

Recognising the gender policies in the Maputo Protocol, Agenda 2063 and the SDGs etc, the administrators agreed to facilitate the adoption by Maritime Administrations of measures that will incorporate gender mainstreaming in the short, medium and long term strategy of each administration.

To foster economic co-operation between AAMA members, they agreed to develop and adopt Near-Coastal Trading, Certification and Competency Code for mutual recognition of certificates that will reduce/eliminate contentions by Port State Control Inspectors.

IMO Council Seat

In his opening address, President Muhammadu Buhari vowed to ensure that Nigeria achieves its goal of attaining the Category C seat in the Council of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

To this end, he stated that Nigeria will promote and support effective African participation in the council of the IMO stressing, however, that this can only yield the desired results when African states speak with one voice at the global level for the enduring interest of Africa.

 He identified the need for African countries to join efforts together to preserve the African-rich maritime resources in order to protect sea foods, achieve food security and earn foreign exchange through export of sea foods.

 Buhari, who was represented by Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo said Nigeria has taken steps to tackle some of the challenges peculiar to it while still requiring regional and sub-regional collaboration.

According to him, “We have stepped up engagement to address the disagreement, misunderstanding and contentious issues in the Niger Delta, which is a part of the Gulf of guinea. We recently approved the maritime security architecture and infrastructure to be jointly coordinated by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the Ministry of Transport and the National Security Adviser’s Office.

“We are giving required support to the Nigerian Navy and other security agencies with others within our sub region so that we can work effectively to police our water ways for trade to flourish.  This arrangement will also contribute to eliminate piracy and sea robbery within our maritime domain. \the results are encouraging and piracy has dropped in the last six months. In the same vein, we are making substantial investment to improve human capacity by taking advantage of international trade and internship opportunities in the shipping and maritime industry.”

He added: “We have also paid significant attention to making it easier to do business and one of our immediate priorities in this regard, is the entry and exit of goods especially in our sea ports. The measures that we are putting in place are designed to improve the efficiency of our ports and to enable quick turnaround time of vessels. Technology is also been deployed to make our port operations more transparent and effective in support of economic growth. NIMASA, which is the regulatory agency of shipping and maritime activities in Nigeria is been reformed so that it can play its expected role as a facilitator of economic prosperity.

“To this end, we need a coherent and collaborative response to the many challenges facing the continent’s maritime sector.  This will require cooperation amongst our states, agencies and other players like the private sector. It will also entail focusing on human capacity development including strengthening the coast guard function to police our water ways. It means that governance issues and appropriate legislative measures must be put on the front burner alongside timely exchange of information. In addition, issues of maritime security and safety must continue to receive the needed attention as we strive to make Africa a strong player in the international maritime community.

In his speech, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi stated that Nigeria, through the hosting of the event,   wishes to reinstate its commitment to continually contribute to the growth of the maritime sector on the continent of Africa and globally.

“The conference is not merely to praise the maritime sector of Africa but to tackle the maritime problems being encountered in the continent. It is regrettable that despite Africa’s enormous maritime endowment, we remain susceptible to raft of challenges.

“These include insignificant share of cargo, low tonnage, piracy, sea robbery, undeclared and unregulated fishing, and environmental degradation; worse still there is no African flagged vessels taking cargoes and our waterways still wallow in servitude. The African human capacity is greatly underdeveloped, leaving us to rely on foreigners to drive our industry. There is also near total absence of trained coast-guard to monitor our maritime domain, ”

On his part, the Director General of the NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Adol Peterside explained that, “hosting AAMA two years after African leaders through the African Union (AU) subscribed to seven keys aspiration encapsulated in the agenda 2063 at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in January 2015 and three years after the adoption of Africa Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS) 2050 concedes on Nigeria a special status.

“Only recently, to further reinforce the critical role maritime can play in the development of Africa, the AU special summit of Heads of Government on maritime security, safety and development in Lome, Togo, 15th October 2016 aligned with us.  They adopted a Charter on Maritime Security, Safety and Development aimed at making Africa’s maritime space the key driver of the continents socio-economic development. This document was endorsed by 43 out of 54 African nations.”

Dumping of Nuclear, Toxic Waste

In a concerted effort to ensure that African Oceans are not overexploited and also not seen as a dumping ground for dangerous materials, participating countries at the just concluded Conference of the association of Heads of African maritime administrations agreed on the need for Population, assets and critical infrastructure protection from maritime pollution by prevention of dumping of toxic and nuclear wastes.

The body of all administrators of maritime regulatory bodies came up with the position as one of the major ways to safeguard the future of maritime wealth in the continent alongside other pertinent positions.

Members of the Association consequently agreed to devote concerted efforts and planning to pursue the enhancement of wealth creation and regional and international trade performance through maritime-centric capacity and capability building while ensuring the minimization of environmental damage and expedited recovery from catastrophic events.

These,  they observed, should be taken into cognisance as well as prevention of hostile and criminal acts at sea, by coordination/harmonisation of the prosecution of offenders and improvement of Integrated Coastal Zone/Area Management in Africa, if the continent is to grow maritime trade.

Peterside, who takes over from Mr. Sobantu Tilayi, the acting Chief Executive Officer of South African Maritime and Safety Agency (SAMSA), who has been the acting Chair of the association since 2013 stated that task of leading the African Maritime Administrators is enormous but there is the need to collaborate with one another to ensure that the African Oceans and seas are not over exploited to the detriment of the continent.

Part of the Resolutions made at the conference enjoined all African countries to participate in the day set aside by the AU as the African Day of Oceans and Seas.

“The African Union Commission has set aside 25th July of every year as Africa’s Day of the Seas and Oceans. Maritime Administrations are encouraged to institutionalize this day to raise awareness amongst stakeholders of the strategic importance of maritime governance for sustainable development; highlight the important role Africa needs to play at international maritime forum; raise awareness on Africa’s “Blue Economy” and enhance the focus on maritime safety, security, maritime environment protection and human element”, the communique read.

 Building Human Capacities

In noting that capacity  building had been a major challenge in the African Maritime sector, member nations agreed to address the enormous challenges of building human capacities in the maritime sector especially regarding training and employment of cadets by urging maritime Administrators to develop an integrated human resources strategy for the maritime sector to support the provision of skills taking into account gender balance in the entire maritime value chain which includes shipping and logistics, offshore activities, fishing, tourism and recreation, and safety and security (AIMS 2050).

Meanwhile, outgoing Chairman, Tilayi at the closing of the three day event, described Peterside as committed and dedicated technocrat that will, no doubt, take maritime administration to a higher level. He pledged his support for the NIMASA DG and urged other African Nations to do so likewise in order to advance the African Maritime Industry.

In a related development Buhari, who had also congratulated Peterside on his election as the chairman of AAMA, stated that the that the Federal Government of Nigeria on its own part has paid significant attention to making the Nigerian maritime business environment a much friendlier one, adding that the immediate priority in this regard is the entry and exit of goods especially in Nigerian seaports to increase efficiency of Nigerian Ports and enable quick turnaround time of vessels.

 According to him, the Federal Government has given required support to the Navy so that they can work with others within our sub region to effectively police our waters for trade. This arrangement will also contribute to resolving and eliminating piracy as well as sea robbery in our maritime domain.

The President also used the opportunity to unveil the new NIMASA brand to usher in a new direction for the African Maritime Sector.

Nigeria was elected Chairman of AAMA with Eleven (11) members’ executive committee comprising of representatives of Central Africa (Cameroun & Cape Verde), West Africa (Cote D’Ivoire & Ghana), East Africa (Tanzania & Comoros), Southern Africa (Mozambique and South Africa), North Africa (Egypt & Sudan) and Uganda representing Land-locked countries.

South Africa also retained Secretariat of the Association while the Association agreed to hold the 2018 Conference in Egypt. Sychelles and Namibia are jostling for the 2019 hosting rights.

AAMA also formally approved the Organisation of African Maritime Awards starting from Egypt 2018 to recognize and honor outstanding Africans in the sector.

The International Maritime Organization, IMO-scecretary General, Kitack Lim, who was represented by the head, Africa (Anglophone) Section Technical Cooperation Division of the IMO, Mr. William Azuh, observed that African continent needs to increase its level of vessel tonnage as well as develop the much needed maritime infrastructure, especially in terms of ship building and equipment to be able to effectively participate in the global shipping trade to the benefits of its citizenry.

However, he charged leadership of the association and indeed member states of the association to begin to develop the framework that would enable them take full advantage of the vast maritime potential embedded in the continent.


Exploiting Resources

In his speech, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara stated that developed countries have done a better job of exploiting these resources.

“We in Africa need to do much more to use these God given resources to feed our people, fight poverty and develop efficient ports and effectively administer the waters of the Seas. We can create high paying jobs for our teeming youths, develop an efficient transportation system, exploit efficiently the oil and gas resources and other minerals contained in the deep seas and oceans of Africa. Nigeria is potentially a major maritime power considering the depth and breadth of our Exclusive Economic Zone and Territorial waters, and can do even more to efficiently and effectively make sustainable use of the Oceans and Seas, “he said.

While noting that fishing is one of the major economic activities of most maritime communities all over Africa, he stressed that sustainable development of the local fisheries sector has the capacity to improve food security and lift people out of poverty and hunger.

He added, “Fisheries and aquaculture provide jobs for millions of people including our women and youths. However, statistics has it that Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, leads to a loss of over 1.3 billion dollars in West Africa alone, yearly. We must tighten the legal and regulatory framework to stop these losses. We must intensify efforts to promote intra- African trade in fisheries as statistics also show that Pan-African fish trade is worth about 20 billion euros. This will help to sustain African economies in the long term.”

As a maritime nation, he said Nigeria has a responsibility together with other nations and international organisations, like the IMO, to make our waters safe and secure. It is as a result that the Legislature in Nigeria has been very active in maritime related legislations over the years.

“In 2007, the National Assembly of Nigeria, created the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) from the old National Maritime Authority (NMA) and amended the 1962 Merchant Shipping Act and empowered NIMASA to administer the Act. Furthermore, the National Assembly has domesticated 12 very important Maritime Safety and Security Conventions of the IMO which are necessary for safeguarding security and safety in our region.

“It has also domesticated the International Ships and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code, which is a very important IMO Convention instrument for safety and security at Nigerian ports as part of its Ports State duties. The Nigerian parliament has also domesticated eight important Conventions and Protocols on marine environment geared towards a clean, safe and secure marine environment.”

He added: “We as a parliament have been at the forefront of legislation on maritime issues in the past and are currently, actively involved in processing legislations in the maritime sector. The House of Representatives of Nigeria only last week passed the National Transport Commission Bill which it is hoped would have a huge impact on the maritime sector especially with respect to economic regulation of activities of operators and agencies in our maritime sector.”


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