Given the current conflict in Europe, Chief of the SA Navy, Vice Admiral Mosiwa Samuel Hlongwane, says that Africa and African militaries should reconsider and reprioritise national and maritime security in the prevailing circumstances.
Speaking at the fourth Maritime Security Conference held in Simon’s Town on 13 April, Hlongwane noted that maritime and naval power is more important today than in the past.
“European Nations (are reconsidering) their militaries importance, their budget allocations and re-prioritising National and Maritime Security globally,” Hlongwane said, as Africa remains heavily dependent on seaborne trade, offshore oil and gas activities, is an important trade transit route and African fishing grounds are important sources of protein for many countries in other parts of the world.
“Surely,” Hlongwane continued, “Africa and African militaries should likewise reconsider and reprioritise National and Maritime Security in the prevailing circumstances, like our European and Global partners?”
Threats in the African context are many and varied, including piracy, maritime crimes, robbery, trafficking in humans, drugs, nuclear, chemical and radiological substances, illicit and over fishing, illegal dumping of toxic substances and marine pollution.
The Black Sea trade routes are now hampered by military actions, the deployment of military assets and more specifically the conventional deployment of sea mines. As a result, global shipping has been disrupted.
“These recurring phenomena and the contemporary application of military assets have critical, long term and often permanent implications on our lives on earth,” Hlongwane said.
Hlongwane says that in the last decade, many states and international actors have prioritised maritime security and have placed it high on their respective security agendas. This is evident by the multitude of regulatory maritime frameworks, bodies and platforms entered into.
The Maritime Committee of the Southern African Development Committee, in developing cooperation among navies in the south of the continent, recently completed the Integrated Maritime Security Strategy and is currently reviewing the Action Plan for the Strategy itself which should be completed within the coming months. This is an effort to align it more closely with the goals and objectives of the 2050 Africa Integrated Maritime (AIM) Strategy.
“Maritime insecurity and instability is a major concern to all SADC Member states,” Hlongwane explained. “SADC coastal states and land linked states are equal dependent on maritime trade and any maritime instability and insecurity has profound negative consequences on the regional economies.
“Within SADC in particular, the ability of states to respond to maritime insecurity is seriously compromised due to resource challenges such as budgetary constraints, inadequate training, lack of skills as well as aging equipment and mass obsolescence. As a result, effective and efficient governance of maritime spaces remain a significant challenge to maritime security within the region.”
Despite a number of SADC member states signing agreements to establish Maritime Domain Awareness Centres (MDAC), Hlongwane said that the critical link between these MDACs and the sharing and fusion of data remain elusive.
“An effective Military Maritime Security response must be articulated collectively, through dialogue, partnership, participation and sound integration of its members, the maritime community and regional partners,” Hlongwane enunciated, adding that to remain ahead of the curve, African navies must continually reassess their thinking as necessary, ensuring that it benefits from the lessons of the past and from other regional partners as maritime insecurity recognizes no national boundaries.
Noting that maritime criminal activities are directed at the economic life and developmental prospects of individual countries and broadly the African continent, Vice Admiral AZ Gambo, Chief of the Naval Staff, Nigerian Navy, reiterated that no one country or navy can address these challenges alone.
“Accordingly, there have been renewed concerns for improved collaboration and enforcement of maritime security laws by regional parties and stakeholders for enhanced maritime security within the continent,” Gambo said.
“Our success or otherwise in the Blue Economy Project would be defined largely by the security of our maritime domain,” Gambo stated, going on to address how the Nigerian Navy is countering maritime insecurity in West Africa and the Gulf of Guinea.
Gambo noted that the ‘whole of Africa’ approach to solving the continent’s peculiar challenges is key.
“Accordingly, regional navies and maritime stakeholders need to continue to share experiences. Furthermore, it is important that maritime legal frameworks to enhance maritime law enforcement are strengthened to forestall insecurity within the Gulf of Guinea,” he concluded.