Reclaiming the Maritime? The AU’s New Maritime Strategy
African Maritime Security Communities
In the past, the maritime domain has not featured prominently on the policy agenda of the African Union and Regional Economic Communities (RECs). Neither the 1963 founding Charter of the Organization of African Unity (OUA), nor the 2002 Constitutive Act of the African Union (AU the successor of the AOU) contain any explicit reference to the sea or inland waterways and lakes.
On 31 January, at the 22nd Summit of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, African Heads of States and Governments adopted the 2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy (2050 AIM Stragey, see webpage here) and Plan of Action. Outlining an overall strategy “to address Africa’s maritime challenges for sustainable development and competitiveness” (§11), the strategy is in fact only the latest piece in a number of maritime security efforts on the continent and “flag a recent pattern of African responses to maritime vulnerabilities that says something about a declaratory shift away from a period of self-imposed sea blindness” (Vrey 2013: 4). In fact, Africa’s leaders also declared the 2015-2025 decade as the “Decade of African Seas and Oceans”, and the date of 25 July as the African Day of Seas and Oceans.
According to Bueger (2013), these developments indicate the emergence of African maritime security communities. A “security community is characterized by a shared repertoire that includes a shared securitization, a joint enterprise to include shared projects of protection, and a high level of mutual engagement” (ibid: 303).
The 2050 AIM Strategy is the one of the first true African effort to reclaim the continent’s maritime security agenda and to move it beyond the international counter-piracy agenda. Towards this end, the strategy sets out to strengthen, develop and shape a coherent African maritime security community; this community, as it takes shape in The 2050 AIM Strategy and other initiatives, reflects African experiences and desires, and seeks to define an African programme for the protection and realization of Africa’s maritime development potential.
The 2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy
The AU secretariat started to develop ideas for jointly addressing the African Maritime Domain (AMD) from 2007. A revised version of the 1993 maritime transport charter, the so-called Durban Resolution, was adopted in 2009. In that year, African Heads of State and Governments called upon the AU Commission (AUC) “to develop a comprehensive and coherent strategy” (African Union 2009: §18) – the 2050 AIM Strategy, which was eventually adopted in January 2014.
The 2050 AIM Strategy provides an overall understanding of maritime security that encompasses the economic, social, environmental and security dimensions. Its vision, which it derives from the 2002 Constitutive Act, is “to foster more wealth creation from Africa’s oceans, seas and inland water ways by developing a thriving maritime economy and realizing the full potential of sea-based activities in an environmentally sustainable manner” (§11). This multidimensional approach and perspective on maritime security governance is exemplified in the threats it defines to Africa’s seaborne development potential. These include organized crime (including piracy, smuggling and human trafficking) and Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing, natural disasters, environmental degradation and climate change, threats to strategic communication systems, vulnerable legal frameworks, and a lack of and/or poorly maintained aids to navigation (e.g. nautical charts and maritime safety information).
A number of strategic objectives are set to address these challenges and to form a comprehensive policy framework for maritime collaboration towards the realization of Africa’s seaborne development potential. Among others, the 2050 AIM Strategy envisions the establishment of a Combined Exclusive Maritime Zone of Africa (CEMZA), to enhance awareness on maritime issues by engaging civil society and other stakeholders, to strengthen maritime capacities and capabilities, to ensure maritime safety and security, to minimize environmental damages and to prevent criminal and hostile acts at sea. It also seeks to protect populations, maritime heritages (e.g. biodiversity) and critical infrastructures from pollution and toxic and nuclear waste dumping and to improve the management of Integrated Coastal Zones, as well as promoting the ratification, domestication and implementation of international legal instruments and creating synergies and coherence between different sectoral policies within and between the RECs/RMs.
To implement the AIMS and to achieve its ambitious objectives, the establishment of a number of new policies, strategies, agencies and coordination mechanisms is suggested. Beside the Combined Exclusive Maritime Zone of Africa (CEMZA), this includes but is not limited to a representative continental working group of Chiefs of African Navies and/or Coast Guards (CHANS), and standardized Regional Maritime Headquarters (MHQ) with Maritime Operational Coordination Centers (MOC) in all RECs/RMs, a Common Fisheries Policy, a Trans-Saharan Crime Monitoring Network, a continental wide and multidisciplinary Oceans and Seas Research Institute of Africa (OSERIA), a cross-sectoral Strategic Foresight Marine Task Force (SFMTF), a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), and an integrated multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary Maritime Disaster Management Strategy for Africa.
The 2050 AIM Strategy describes an ambitious and coherent policy approach for sustainable maritime security and development in Africa. It seeks to enshrine maritime security at the continental level, to strengthen collaboration between the AU, the RECs, member states and international partners, and to construct new fields for maritime policy and engagement at continental level.
Africa Unite: Maritime Security Communities
Maritime security practices and initiatives in Africa have so far been situated at the sub-regional level (for instance the 2009 Djibouti Code of Conduct (DCoC in East Africa, the 2013 Yaoundé Declaration in West Africa and efforts by the Southern African Development Community (SADEC). The 2050 AIM Strategy seeks to shift African maritime security policy to the continental level and, by doing so, reasserts the strategic leadership role of the AUC and its agencies. Africa, rather than international trade or a specific region, becomes the referent object that needs protection. The strategy argues that “AU Member States have common maritime challenges and opportunities” and outlines a strategy to address threats that could “inflict catastrophic economic harm to African States” (§15).
To get Africa’s various regional security communities on board, AIMS had to be conceptualized in an open and participatory way. This was to ensure that various actors and stakeholders were able to get involved and to contribute to the development of AIMS. Work on a comprehensive African maritime (security) strategy started formally in 2010. A task force was created in 2010 to develop a draft for what was now called the 2050 African Integrated Maritime Strategy. The draft was discussed at further expert workshops throughout 2011 and 2012, as well as at the level of senior government officials and at a conference for Ministers Responsible for Maritime-Related Affairs.
As a result, the 2050 AIM Strategy provides as a coherent policy framework that actively incorporates regional and international maritime security mechanisms, such as the DCoC, the Contact Group on Piracy of the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS), the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Ship and Port Security (ISPS) code. It has also represents the continent’s political infrastructure, in particular AU institutions and documents, such as the Peace and Security Council and the AU Constitutive Act, as well as “AU Member States, local communities, specialized regional institutions and associations, the African maritime private sector, strategic development partners and the international community as a whole”(§24).more