Op-Ed: Strategic Importance of the Maritime Security in the Gulf of Guinea

Angola hosts from October 7-9, an International Conference on Maritime and Energy Security in the Gulf of Guinea. This conference is unique and especially important because it brings together public and private stakeholders from the global maritime and energy sectors and enables them to share international best practices in order to improve regional security coordination and strengthen public-private security partnerships.

The Gulf of Guinea is one of the most dynamic regions in the global energy sector and is of critical importance for the economic development of much of the Atlantic Coast of Africa. Revenues derived from hydrocarbons provide many African states in the region with a strong financial base to fund development initiatives. Also, many of the trade routes connecting Africa with the rest of the world pass through the Gulf of Guinea. In other words, maritime security offshore is inextricably linked with development and security onshore.

Over the past two years, the States of West and Central Africa have demonstrated commitment to support and protect the development of the blue economy. The 2013 “Declaration of the Heads of State and Government of Central and West African States on Maritime Safety and Security in their Common Maritime Domain” (Yaoundé Code of Conduct) represents a pioneering framework to collaborate, cooperate, and share information.

This conference will provide an opportunity for senior officials from the Gulf of Guinea region to develop strategies to improve maritime safety and security. At the national level, the focus will be on: interagency coordination; cooperative mechanisms between state institutions and private sector stakeholders; and preparedness for potential maritime emergencies. At the regional level, the conference will be an important step in the implementation of the 2013 Yaoundé Code of Conduct.

Angola is a leader in addressing conflicts on the continent and, with an extensive coastline, has an important role and interest in addressing the continent’s blue economy and maritime concerns as well. President Jose Eduardo dos Santos decided in our first meeting together that Angola would host the maritime and energy conference, since then our two countries have collaborated closely on organizing the event.

The United States is pleased to partner with Angola through AFRICOM, on this important initiative to support the protection of the blue economy in the Gulf of Guinea. The United States Africa Command, (U.S. AFRICOM) is one of the U.S. Defense Department’s geographic combatant commands and is responsible for military relations with African nations, the African Union, and African regional security organizations. AFRICOM, in concert with interagency and international partners, builds defense capabilities, responds to crises, and deters and defeats transnational threats in order to promote regional security, stability, and prosperity. Cooperation and interoperability are essential, given the magnitude of the threats and the size of the maritime domain for which African naval forces are responsible.

Maritime states around the world have dedicated considerable attention in recent years to the development, drafting and implementation of national and regional maritime strategies. A robust Angolan Maritime Strategy will establish the maritime security priorities; assign specific responsibilities among state institutions; emphasize the importance of public-private sector collaboration; and promote a strong inter-regional cooperation.

This conference is an important step in a continuing shift in strategic thinking about Africa’s coastal waters. The United States congratulates Angola for its leading role on this initiative. All of us, who believe in Africa’s huge potential, we can, and should, continue to work so that the security and protection of the oceans of this beautiful continent become a reality.