Nigeria Setting the Pace In Harnessing Potential of African Seas and Oceans

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The concerted efforts by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency to champion effective use of the African ocean and seas for diversification will no doubt lead to the continent’s economic emancipation and development, Sylvanus Obas writes.

The attention given to the responsible use of the oceans in Africa to contribute to economic growth has continued to rise in recent times.

Experts believe the opportunities around Africa’s blue economies are enormous with significant potential to create jobs and improve livelihoods.

Africa’s vast coastline anchors a maritime industry estimated at $1 trillion per year and this is only scratching the surface.

Africa has 38 coastal states and a number of island states like Cape Verde, Sao Tomé and Principe, Mauritius, Seychelles and the Comoros. Collectively, African coastal and island states encompass vast ocean territories of an estimated 13 million square kilometre (km²).

Seychelles, for example, has 1.3 million km2 of ocean territory that remains largely underdeveloped. Somalia has the longest coastline in Africa (approximately 3 000 km) and claims ocean territory stretching about 120 km off shore.

But what are often missing in debates are issues of governance and security.

Five themes are particularly important to ensure both: safety and security; rule of law and transparency; respect for human rights; sustainable economic opportunity and human development.

Experts believe many African countries are failing to ensure safe and secure conditions for those working and living off the oceans. Tracts of the sea off East, West and North Africa are often labelled lawless.
Illegal fishing, sea piracy and armed robbery, drug and human smuggling have assumed staggering proportions. Capping this is the rise in illegal migration.

For this to change, experts said diverse actors need to start cooperating across national boundaries to secure and use ocean territories. It has become common knowledge that individual states can do little on their own. The solution of cooperation is simple but difficult to sell to a critical mass of African governments that are often suspicious of collective agendas.

Failure to ensure that ocean territories are secure promotes ungoverned spaces which criminals exploit. At worst, neglected maritime spaces benefit insurgents and terrorists as is obvious in Libya, Somalia and Nigeria.

Africa has had to contend with three volatile oceanic regions where criminality makes it impossible for countries to realise the potential of their oceans. These are the Horn of Africa, the Gulf of Guinea and the waters of the Mediterranean to the north of Libya.

A common denominator in the three hubs is that countries on these coasts have failed to make the areas safe. This has opened the door to criminal actors. A recent Greenpeace report found that the West African region loses about $2 billion to illegal fishing.

Maritime Integration Strategy:
“Most African countries are keenly aware of both the ocean’s potential as well as the threats to this potential.
“A number of initiatives point to this. These include: the African Union’s 2012 Integrated Maritime Strategy 2050 which recognises and encourages the importance of African countries paying greater attention to their maritime interests and the recently agreed Lomé Charter, a continental effort to encourage and coordinate efforts by African states to attend to maritime security, safety and development,” the report stated.

Others the report said are, “the Yaoundé Code of Conduct for West Africa which maps out an inter-regional set of responsibility zones to oversee and facilitate responses to growing criminality in the Gulf of Guinea and an increase in the presence of international naval capabilities off the Horn of Africa to stem the piracy tide off Somalia.

“This was complemented by the Djibouti Code of Conduct that enabled East African intervention to counter piracy threats. The code has been extended to include other maritime crimes.

“At national level, the Seychelles’ government has set the tone with its explicit focus on the importance of the blue economy. A National Blue Economy Roadmap aims to advance economic diversification, unlock investments and address food security.

“Although the approach taken by the Seychelles seems obvious given its dependence on the surrounding oceans, the connection is just as important for Africa’s other 38 coastal states.”

South Africa, the report pointed out, runs a host of maritime initiatives to tap into the blue economy.
“The country recently adopted a policy – called Operation Phakisa aimed at four priority areas: marine transport and manufacturing, offshore oil and gas exploration, aquaculture and marine protection services,” it stated.

Despite all these initiatives a great deal still needs to be done. The most important are around governance and security.

Unfortunately, well networked actors threatening the security of African waters are growing at an alarming rate.

Maritime security experts believe African countries can address this by, in the first instance, ensuring that their national laws are aligned with the United Nation’s treaty aimed at ocean safety.

Secondly, the experts added that African countries need to start working together, saying, “It’s clear that single countries can do very little on their own. They need to sign up to multilateral initiatives. A growing network of collective maritime security is key to harnessing the Blue Economy.”

Nigeria Sets the Pace:
To ensure that Nigeria takes the lead in the growing effort to make effective use of the oceans and seas resources, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has since 2017 put plans in place to work with stakeholders in the maritime sector to make the blue economy Nigeria’s economic mainstay.

To this effect, NIMASA created massive awareness to stakeholders and the Nigerian public on the concept of blue economy by taking two measures: first is supporting the Women In Maritime Africa (WIMA), the Nigerian Chapter to organise road shows aimed at sensitizing the general public on how to live in harmony with seas and oceans to avoid maritime disasters such as floods. Secondly by commemorating 2017 African Day of the Seas and Oceans in grand style by hosting stakeholders Conference .

Addressing stakeholders on that year’s theme entitled, “Harnessing African Maritime Potential for Sustainable Development”, the NIMASA DG noted that it is in line with the overall goals of Africa’s Agenda 2063 which is aimed at ushering in the Africa that we all desire with the capacity to generate wealth from sustainable governance of Africa’s seas and oceans.

Speaking further, Dr. Peterside said the decade of Africa’s Seas and Oceans declared by the African Union (AU) from 2015-2025 should be perceived as a shift in perspective that recognizes the fact that our oceans and seas are economic infrastructure, necessitating the need for stakeholders in the sector to work together to realize the opportunities embedded in the sector.

“It is a well-known fact that Africa seas and oceans are usually overlooked when it comes to issues of sustainable development in Africa, to the extent that Africa is considered to be sea blind; sea blind because there is low level awareness of the potential for wealth creation which abounds in the seas and oceans. This event therefore tends to show that our eyes are gradually being opened to the reality that our seas and oceans possess huge source of economic resources that can take the continent to the next level”, the DG said.

Passion For Africa’s Partnership:
To consolidate on the awareness created in 2017,
NIMASA in conjunction with the African Union (AU) converged maritime stakeholders in Nigeria to mark the 2018 African Day of the Seas and Oceans, tagged: “Partnership Key to a Sustainable Blue World.”

At the forum, stakeholders brainstormed on how Nigeria and other African countries can confront the challenges and ensure that the blue economy becomes the new frontier.

Instituted by the African Union in 2015, the forum drew attention to the strategic importance of proper management of marine resources for the development of the African continent in a sustainable manner.

In his address, the Director General of the NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, stated that partnership was a crucial element to the effective utilisation of Africa’s maritime resources.

The NIMASA boss noted that the need for countries in the African continent to collaborate has become imperative to realise a common goal, geared towards the actualisation of the Blue Economy.

According to Peterside, “Our passion for Africa’s partnership inspires our leadership role in the Association of African Maritime Administration (AAMA) to continue to innovate with ideas to pull African Maritime Administrations (MARAD) together for sustainable realisation of the objectives of the African Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS) 2050 towards a peaceful, prosperous and integrated Africa where there will be equal opportunity to participate towards economic growth.”

Speaking further, Peterside noted that the world was concerned about the sustainable use of the seas and oceans as it is endowed with enormous resources, hence the need for Africa to utilise the opportunities embedded in it.

While using the opportunity to call for more collaboration among stakeholders in realising a robust maritime sector in Nigeria and Africa as a whole, he assured that NIMASA will continue to engage and educate the public on the sustainable use of the seas and oceans.

To ensure that other African countries key into the blue economy concept, the NIMASA DG who doubles as the Chairman of the Association of African Maritime Administrations (AAMA), organized the first Sustainable Blue Economy Conference in Nairobi, Kenya from November 26 – 28, 2018.

The inaugural Sustainable Blue Economy Conference had over 15,000 participants from around the world. They gathered to discuss how to build a blue economy that harnesses the potential of oceans, seas, lakes and rivers to improve the lives of people, particularly those in developing countries.

Nigeria Government Commitment to Blue Economy:
At the Nairobi Conference, Nigerian Government once again set the pace by setting the tone of discussion at the conference when it expressed its readiness to cooperate with sister countries and development bodies to advance Africa’s prosperity through the safe and sustainable use of the continent’s vast sea and ocean resources. Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, made this known in his speech at the Conference.

Amaechi, who conveyed Nigeria’s statement of commitment to the blue economy initiative, said its growth was the most viable option for Africa’s development in the wake of declining mineral and commodity prices. He said the high level participation in the conference demonstrated the importance African countries attached to the Blue Economy and their resolve to use the resources of the seas and oceans to accelerate economic growth and reduce poverty to its barest minimum.

According to him, “As a country, we are conscious of our responsibilities and international obligations which have given rise to our endorsement and domestication of key International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and other important African Union continental instruments.

“We are mindful and highly committed to our responsibilities to protect our marine environment to ensure that our continent does not become dumping ground for pollutants which can prevent exploration of ocean resources”.

Amaechi highlighted steps taken by the Federal Government to mainstream the blue economy concept into its Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) to include formulation of a draft National Transport Policy, which is awaiting approval of the Federal Executive Council. The policy, according to him, will provide the platform to implement at the country level the framework for the protection and sustainable exploitation of Africa’s maritime domain. The government has also constituted a high-powered committee, coordinated by the Federal Ministry of Transportation, to formulate and map out a roadmap to align the Blue Economy regime with the country’s ERGP, Amaechi said.

Other steps include the drafting of a dedicated anti-piracy bill, which is before the National Assembly, to provide the requisite framework for the fight, prosecution and punishment of piracy and other related crimes in Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea, and approval for the acquisition of intelligence gathering maritime domain awareness assets and military response assets to fight pirates and make Nigeria’s maritime domain safe for economic activities.

Amaechi said the Federal Government was investing heavily in the development of new infrastructure, such as deep sea ports and intermodal transport, to drive growth in the maritime sector. “All of these actions underscore the importance our government has placed on the Blue Economy Concept,” he said.

He assured that Nigeria was fully committed to Africa’s drive to harness the vast potentials of its maritime domain, saying the country “will continue to cooperate with sister countries and developmental bodies to advance the prosperity of the African continent”.

To further demonstrate Nigeria’s readiness to march words with action in its efforts to champion the blue economy concept, NIMASA at the Stakeholders Conference held to mark 2018 Africa’s Day of the Seas and Oceans set up a partnership committee on implementation of sustainable Blue Economy in Nigeria to be chaired by Major General, Jonathan India Garba (rtd) and the Secretary is Dr. Mrs. Felicia Mogo, the deputy director, Marine Environment Management of NIMASA.

Other members of the committee are: Dr. Chris Asoluka, Captain Sunday Umoren and several others.
The committee while being inaugurated by Mr Mike Igbokwe, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) was charged to come up with a framework for the actualisation of the blue economy initiative in Nigeria amongst other responsibilities, all geared towards the realization of a robust and virile maritime sector in Nigeria.

It is expected therefore that during the forth-coming 2019 Africa Day of the Seas and Oceans, the committee would present its reports which would set a roadmap on how Nigeria would actualise its blue economy potential, and this could be a guide to other African maritime nations.


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