AFRICAN nations need to work together to ensure that maritime safety and security are effectively and efficiently maintained, works and transport minister John Mutorwa says.
Mutorwa was speaking at the opening of the week-long Africa Centre for Strategic Studies' whole-of-Africa maritime dialogue, which commenced in Windhoek on Monday.
He stated that Africa's strategic location puts her as a focal point on the map of maritime trade, where 90% of trade is carried out via shipping, and its maritime environment must therefore be made safe and secure.
He said while there is significant progress made in creating a safe and secure maritime transport environment in Africa, more still needs to be done to address maritime security threats in certain parts of the continent, particularly where incidents of piracy and maritime armed robberies rear their ugly heads now and then, disrupting global trade and Africa's economy.
"I need to stress that piracy is a major threat to all African maritime countries. Pirates wait, probe, plan and coordinate their nefarious activities on our continent," Mutorwa stressed.
This, he added, is a call on Africans to be vigilant at all times to deny pirates access to water, deflate their plans, and defeat their activities.
The minister said besides piracy, there are other security threats such as armed robbery at sea, drug trafficking, human trafficking, cyber attacks and illegal fishing which need to be combated, and he thus called on African experts to come up with strategies to address these threats.
Namibia is ready to work hand in hand with other African Union member states as well as other international partners to defeat these threats, he assured.
"As maritime space becomes more dependent on technology, cyber attacks are becoming more a maritime security concern which could threaten maritime infrastructure as they interfere with both international commercial activities and our national economies," he noted.
Mutorwa further commended East and West Africa for their sustained efforts towards eradicating piracy and maritime robbery.
"Today, commercial ships and cruise ships feel safe to trade in those regions as a result of coordinated regional efforts, supported by international partners," he said.Speaking at the same event, deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in Windhoek, Peter Lord said Africa has done a lot that deserves credit and celebration when it comes to maritime safety and security. Lord said Africa has done a lot, particularly in the last decade, to ensure maritime safety and security, and an important part of that success is communicating it.
The conference runs from 13 to 17 May, where African nations are going to discuss issues pertaining to maritime safety and security on the continent.
"Whether it is the initiative taken by the gulf of Guinea countries to operationalise the Yaoundé code of conduct for maritime zones, or the effort of states like Angola and Kenya which have hosted continent-wide conferences on maritime security and development, there is truly a lot to celebrate," Lord noted.
He said it is pleasing to see Namibia hosting this dialogue where Africa will have a chance to hear Namibia's perspective on maritime security, governance and development, adding that Namibia's story is genuinely unique, successful and deserving of credit.
He added that as much as there is much to celebrate, there are also challenges, and those challenges continue to change with the evolving use and management of the oceans.
Maritime security is a central component of the successful and sustainable management of ocean resources.
"Trafficking, piracy and environmental crimes constitute serious threats to national economies, the social fabric of a state and the rule of law, and such crimes at sea hurt us all and require a coordinated response from us all," Lord said.
He added that making progress requires real action and strong cooperation, and the United States will remain a strong partner with African nations in this endeavour.
This week's event is thus an opportunity for Africans to share experiences, successes, challenges and ideas related to Africa's maritime issues.
"I hope this week will help you integrate and coordinate efforts nationally and internationally to provide maritime security throughout Africa, and protect an important generator of economic growth," he said. - Nampa