East Africa: Indian Ocean Commission Kicks Off Initiative to Enhance Regional Maritime Connectivity

press release

The kick-off meeting for the establishment of a Regional Technical Committee under the Enhancing Maritime Connectivity Project (EMCP) was held, this afternoon, at Hennessy Park Hotel in Ebène, in the presence of the Minister of Land Transport and Light Rail, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade, Mr Alan Ganoo; the Counsellor from the Embassy of Japan, Mr Korehito Masuda; the Director of the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC), Mr Dev Phokeer; and other eminent personalities.

The EMCP is an undertaking of the IOC, funded by the Government of Japan to the tune of USD 875,000, which aims at strengthening regional maritime connectivity. The project is intended for IOC Member States comprising the Union of Comoros, France/Reunion, Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles, as well as the African Coastal States like South Africa, Kenya, Mozambique and Tanzania.

The objective of setting up a Regional Technical Committee under the project is to facilitate dialogue among key stakeholders such as maritime transport policy makers, trade experts and both public and private investment promotion actors, with a view to collectively reflect on actions to promote regional maritime connectivity.

In his keynote speech, Minister Ganoo applauded this IOC initiative that he said, would address one of the key constraints for regional economic integration especially in the post-COVID-19 era, namely maritime connectivity. He was of the view that as there is a strong trend towards regionalisation, as compared to globalisation, it is necessary to act now since maritime connectivity is emerging as a pre-condition to boost regional economic recovery.

The Minister welcomed the participation of not only India Ocean Islands and Coastal Countries, but also of regional economic communities such as COMESA, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Eastern Africa and the private sector in the project. He also thanked the Government of Japan for their support.

Moreover, the three-pronged approach adopted by the IOC was lauded by the Minister. The approach consists on the establishment of data services for shipping trade, the design of a regional shipping schedule service and the creation of the Regional Technical Committee.

According to Mr Ganoo, maritime connectivity had the potential to greatly improve continental integration in Africa and transform the economies of the different countries by unlocking, diversifying social, economic and bilateral opportunities. The Minister also detailed complementary actions, that he deemed urgent. These included the need for indigenous shipping companies offering reliable and affordable services in Islands States with mainland countries, and greater investment in marine transport.

For his part, the Counsellor from the Embassy of Japan recalled that his country is an observing Member of IOC since 2019 in line with one of its diplomatic pillars for a free and open Indo-Pacific region. He underscored that the purpose of this particular pillar was to ensure economic prosperity, peace, and maritime security in the Indo-Pacific region. Mr Masuda affirmed that the works and efforts of the IOC, undertaken under the EMCP, would contribute to the success of the initiative.

As for the Director of IOC, he apprised stakeholders of the outcome of the first phase of the EMCP which was the completion of three studies. The studies purported to a Maritime Transport Diagnostic Study; a Pilot Edition of the Southwest Indian Ocean Shipping and Trade Data Service; and A Preliminary Feasibility Study for the Establishment of a Southwest Indian Ocean Maritime Single Window.

In addition, Mr Phokeer averred the EMCP would be in a better position to contribute significantly to the promotion of economic development in the Southwest Indian Ocean and of the African continental integration with the rationalisation of port management, the modernisation of infrastructures, and the establishment of a regular monitoring system for trade at the regional level.

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