Maritime security and trade may be the key to Africa’s economic future, according to Eric Ichikowitz, senior vice president of Paramount Group.
Despite the seismic shocks of globalization, which offer both opportunities and threats to the global marketplace, African challenges have always required African solutions, Ichikowitz said. “The continent’s public and private sectors have a shared role to play in this process, maintaining our economic potential by securitising our natural resources and citizenries against threats foreign and domestic.”
“Critical to this mission, not only must Africa’s naval forces work closely together, share in local knowledge and capacities to bolster our coastlines’ territorial integrity, but so too must the business community support these efforts by creating a conducive climate for localised manufacturing and production, rapidly expanding industrialisation in doing so.”
Ichikowitz’s comments come after Paramount attended the International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference (IMEDC) in Ghana last month, being the platinum sponsor of the event. Ichikowitz said Paramount has a very strong and lasting relationship with the Ghanaian Navy, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary. The company is supplying patrol boats for Ghana’s Navy.
“It is through partnerships like this that governments can unlock the vast benefits of the Blue Ocean economy by creating indigenous and regional naval capabilities that will bolster local manufacturing, skills development and technology transfer,” he said last month.
Ichikowitz commended the Ghanaian Navy in saying they have built a fleet which has the capacity, technology and resources to handle the modern challenges of the 21st century. Ichikowitz also emphasised the greater need for dialogue, cooperation and industrialisation by African naval forces as well as the private sectors role in this process.
With 14 Chiefs of Navy who attended the IMEDC, Ichikowitz took the opportunity to highlight the crucial role they play in creating a safer and prosperous Africa. In context with the recently established African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement, serving to create the world’s largest ‘free trade zone’ in a combined GDP of $2.5 trillion, protection of present resources and future potential could not be more important.
For AfCFTA and Africa to succeed, Ichikowitz believes that through strategic investment in indigenous security capacity-building, there shall be an enhancement of job creation, high skills development and transfer and therefore improving economic conditions in the country. Partnerships at IMEDC as well as the shared understanding of the need to continue in inward investing in security is paramount in protecting the continent’s resources while ensuring sustainable and autonomous growth, he said.
In finding solutions to defend the continent against today’s problems of piracy, human and drug trafficking and illegal bunkering, technologies and capabilities are required which are unprecedentedly sophisticated yet invariably more intuitive, efficient and cost-effective.
Threats to African security on vital coastal and intercontinental thruways like the Gulf of Guinea are well documented, which play a direct role in hindering socioeconomic development. Recorded piracy encounters in the region, collated by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), reported 72 attacks last year on vessels at sea between the Ivory Coast and Cameroon — up from 28 in 2014. Encounters that went unrecorded are suggested to be double this figure.
In addition, the African continent is relatively young as a population with numbers set to double by 2050 which will have a profound impact on governments’ capacity to protect and provide.
Ichikowitz believes that these vulnerabilities should not stand in the way of AfCTA. Ichikowitz believes Paramount Group to be a part of the solution by developing a model of portable manufacturing to promote localisation; technical and operational training programmes that promote skills transfer and indigenous capacity as well as, “Innovative financing structures to enable our partner countries and regional organisations to create their own manufacturing industries to meet these growing requirements”.
With the AfCTA coming into fruition, Paramount looks forward to greater collaboration with African navies and governments, supporting the creation of local production hubs and prioritising the implementation of smarter, innovative and indeed local strategies to seize the opportunities in manufacturing and industrialisation that the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ has brought about and increase the overall global security (and market competitiveness) of the continent.
Ichikowitz went onto say, “What is clear to us is that Africa will never be in a position to take its destiny in its own hands until it can provide for its own security, and create a stable environment for its nations and their people to live and work in safety and in freedom.”
Ichikowitz concluded by stating that closer collaboration, establishing industrial partnerships and working together to find African solutions to local challenges will secure and build an African economy that drives the welfare of Africa’s people.