• Friday, September 29, 2023
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Shaping the future of sea power in Africa

Shaping the future of sea power in Africa

In present times, the global economy will not function effectively without an efficient shipping system. One may observe that some navies’ platforms in Africa might not seem impressive because the maintenance of a navy is capital intensive and demands the availability of skilled personnel. With the exception of a few, African navies do not have the resources to maintain a larger fleet.

At a time when the world is rife with COVID – 19 pandemic and economic crisis, it is easy to forget that the international shipping industry works quietly and efficiently to keep the wheels of global trade in motion and ensure timely delivery of cargoes. The demand for shipping will increase over time as nations will be involved in international trade irrespective of their level of industrialisation.

No country in the world is completely reliant on its domestic resources, and shipping has always provided a cost-effective platform for transporting cargoes across long distances. If the world must rely on a secure, safe and efficient shipping industry, capacity-building and professionalism must be prioritised to have qualified seafarers operate ships globally.

At a time when the world is rife with COVID – 19 pandemic and economic crisis, it is easy to forget that the international shipping industry works quietly and efficiently to keep the wheels of global trade in motion and ensure timely delivery of cargoes

Maritime experts have predicted that African nations that can manage and secure their ships, ports and people, amongst other factors, will shape the future of the maritime industry in the region. Based on these painted scenarios, the world may experience booms and busts this decade (2021 – 2030) with significant consequences for shipping globally.

This is expected because the global economy is cyclic. When there is an economic expansion in the future, the economy of nations will improve significantly.

This will result in huge investments that will ultimately raise production and consumption, which ultimately will trigger economic growth globally. For African nations to benefit from global economic growth using the sea, they will improve shipping while protecting their maritime interests with the ultimate development of naval power.

Given that technology has a key role to play in naval power, one may want to know what forces are at work? Electronics, guided weapons and nuclear power have changed naval warfare more than four decades ago.

These factors have increased the cost of sea power. Navies that wish to control the oceans must pay the price for this privilege – access to costly weapon systems. Most African navies cannot afford these expensive and sophisticated weapon systems to keep the oceans safe. The solution lies in collaboration of naval forces.

So, naval forces in Africa must sustain collaborative efforts in their subregional sphere of influence and interest. But we have observed that most African countries have weak economies as a result of their reliance on the sale of commodities, which are fast depleting in a knowledge-based global economy.

African nations must work effortlessly towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular, SDG 14 before the 2030 deadline. Essentially, the SDG 14 is to ensure that there is reduction in pollution at sea.

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The 14th pillar of the SDG, relates to the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean and marine resources for sustainable development. The targets include: sustainable fishing, protection and restoration of eco systems, reduction of marine pollution, and the increase in scientific knowledge amongst others. To achieve sustainable use of the oceans, African nations must improve their maritime governance through actions – legislation and waste water management- alongside other collaborative efforts of all stakeholders.

In preparing for a great future, knowledge of the mechanism of the maritime industry is essential for immigration agents, port workers and custom officers, considering their roles in keeping trade moving. Modern shipping, globally, is different from what it used to be about thirty years ago. Today, the maritime industry is highly competitive and will remain so into the future. No nation or shipping organisation can run ships safely and efficiently without qualified people on land and at sea.

Global trade must continue in a safe, secure, and eco–friendly manner during and after the pandemic; to achieve this goal, serious attention must be paid to what happens to seafarers, ships, cargoes, and seaports.

Although times are currently tough in shipping, particularly in most African countries, government and private sector stakeholders must collaborate and support maritime institutions with grants to enable indigenous shipbuilding for cabotage services. This must be done in a sustainable manner to promote productivity within the industry.

In order to tackle the growing and complex challenges to their maritime domain, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), comprising 15 states with a coastline of 2,868 nautical miles along the Atlantic Ocean, has an Integrated Maritime Strategy (EIMS). The EIMS enables maritime nations within the ECOWAS Subregion to set out expected standards to regulate and streamline related activities. Essentially, the EIMS is designed to complement all efforts within the African continent and to enhance synergy with all stakeholders.

It is long overdue for Nigeria, with over 200 million people, to have its own maritime strategy. It would not take much pain to formulate Nigeria’s maritime strategy because the African Union (AU) also has articulated its own maritime strategy.

Under the African Union’s auspices, the 2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime (AIM) Strategy was established as a broad structure for preserving and maintaining the African maritime domain to generate income. Unconfirmed reports reveal that Nigeria is currently articulating a maritime strategy that would enable all stakeholders to influence events in the littoral with traditional blue water maritime concepts of sea denial and sea control. I affirm that maritime strategy is not only about naval forces.

The maritime strategy of a nation is to address contending, emerging and future maritime challenges and opportunities within its maritime domain and areas of contiguity. A maritime strategy needs to consider landlocked neighbours with a clear focus on wealth creation arising from sustainable governance of Nigeria’s inland waters, oceans, and seas. Without a maritime strategy, Nigeria may not tap beyond 20 per cent of the resources within its maritime environment. Nigeria and other African Countries should consider having their shipping lines in order to boost sea power in their respective countries.

There are exciting times and opportunities ahead, and a lot can be accomplished if private firms and government institutions collaborate to help businesses thrive in the maritime industry. There is a mighty ocean out there that needs to be protected for the benefit of humanity. This can be achieved through improved maritime domain awareness and information gathering. African countries, particularly Nigeria, could boost their prospect of a post – COVID 19 economic recovery by removing some restrictive maritime trade policies. This can be achieved by relaxing tariffs and non-tariff restrictions on trade. It is my view that trade barriers will make it difficult for African economies to recover from the effect of Covid-19 pandemic. Africa has a lot of potentials to become a maritime trade hub.

So, deliberate efforts must be made by all countries within the African continent not to miss the opportunity to become a maritime hub for global trade in the 21st Century. All said, Africa’s sea power will develop better than what it is currently if Nigeria and other African countries can rediscover their maritime industry as soon as possible. I wish all seafarers fair winds and following seas.

Concluded. Thank you.

Excerpts from the book titled “Developmental Challenges of Seapower in Africa: Securing Ships, Ports and People,” by Rear Admiral (Rtd) Michael Akinsola Johnson. Published August 15, 2022.