An Associate Professor at the Royal Danish Defence College (RDDC), Thomas Mandrup, has urged coastal states in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) maritime domain to continue to design and align policies, strategies and ocean programmes to improve the security of their maritime interests.
He has also encouraged states to improve upon governance practices, enhance regional cooperation and also take ownership of strategies aimed at effectively addressing maritime security challenges.
Prof. Mandrup made the call at a two-day maritime security conference organised by the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) in Accra last Wednesday.
It was in partnership with the RDDC and the Research Institute of the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa.
The hybrid event (virtual and in-person) was attended by 150 delegates from the academic institutions, maritime security practitioners, policy makers from Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and Denmark, among other relevant institutions.
Prof. Mandrup said GoG states often did not have strategies and capacity, leaving external partners to define what they thought the host states needed.
The conference, on the theme: "Maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea: Rethinking the past and contemplating the future", is being supported by the Danish Peace and Stabilisation Fund.
Prof. Mandrup pointed out that GoG states, before accepting donors to help them address challenges, ought to define what their challenges, as well as the gaps, were and what assistance they required from the external donors.
He said maritime insecurity damaged institutions in the maritime domain, as well as development initiatives on land.
Crime, illegal transhipment of goods and people and illegal fisheries, he underscored, were closely integrated with local economic mechanisms and directly and indirectly with crime networks and radicalised insurgency groups inland.
Forfeiture of opportunities
Given the ever-rising importance of the oceans as geopolitical and geo-economic landscapes, Prof. Mandrup said, the ocean offered a significant potential source of income which could soften the negative economic outlooks facing several West African states.
The Commandant of the KAIPTC, Major General Richard Addo Gyane, in his welcome address, indicated that whereas incidents of piracy in the GoG maritime domain had decreased significantly, with the International Maritime Bureau’s half-year report for 2022 pointing out 12 incidents of the 58 piracy incidents worldwide, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, on the other hand, had become a bane.
IUU, he said, remained one of the greatest threats to marine ecosystems due to its potent ability to undermine national and regional efforts to conserve and manage fish stocks.
“It also jeopardises the management of fish stock by disrupting regulatory processes, as well as impacting negatively on the livelihoods of coastal communities, including women and the youth,” he said.