Paramount Group, Africa’s largest defence and aerospace company, today called for stronger collaboration between West African governments and the private sector to create local, affordable and sustainable defence solutions in response to the increasing threats of piracy, illegal fishing and terrorism faced by navies in the Gulf of Guinea.
The call was made on the first day of the Coastal and Maritime Surveillance Africa Conference and Defence Exhibition (CAMSA 2017), in Accra, which seeks to explore ways to tackle the rising incidence of piracy, armed robberies at sea, oil theft and other criminal activities in the maritime environment, with a view to increasing maritime security in the region.
The conference, which is supported by the Ghana Navy and the Ghana Armed Forces, brings together government ministers, military leaders, naval manufacturers and maritime experts from across Africa. High level officials including the vice-president, the ministers of defence, interior and transport, and the chiefs of naval staff, army and air force of Ghana are expected to attend.
Eric Ichikowitz, VP of Paramount Group, said: “We will work with sovereign navies that understand that the responsibility for maritime security lies with the navy, and not to be outsourced; to develop and acquire naval fleets, be it offshore patrol vessels or close support vessels that are customised to their requirement; and we will do this with the required commitment to skills transfer and local industrial capacity development.
“Preparing for the threats that our navies are facing would be challenging under any circumstances and is made more complex by the global financial crisis and the impact that the crash in the oil price has had on the continent. Given these challenges, we believe that governments in the region will look to prioritising increased collaboration with the private sector to bolster both domestic innovation, economic development and national security.”
James Fisher, CEO of Paramount Maritime, the Maritime Division of Paramount Group, said: “We believe the defence and commercial maritime sector has an obligation to support governments in the region by developing sustainable industrial partnerships that deliver mission appropriate, affordable and sustainable defence solutions built for Africa by Africans.
“Given that such partnerships involve the end-user during design and production, the technologies can be effectively localised to ensure it meets operational requirements. Appropriate technology should be the buzzword, especially in Africa, where each nation faces uniquely challenging threats and environments. With focused design, governments enhance their defence capability and avoid the problem of procuring imported equipment that was never designed to be suited exactly for local conditions and requirements. Appropriate technology and mindset are the key factors in reducing defence spending.”
Ichikowitz added: “Innovative design should also lead to affordable design. New production methodologies and modern materials make it possible to integrate and construct sophisticated defence systems from commercial off-the-shelf components, thus reducing costly technical risk. Innovative equipment is also increasingly multifunctional, able to stabilise diverse threats at one streamlined cost.
“Naval vessels used for patrol and interdiction functions one day must be able to perform humanitarian relief operations the following day. These features and multifunction capabilities are not easy to develop, but they are imperative to responsive and affordable defence.”