The 22nd Ordinary Session of the African Union (AU) Summit ended on Friday January 31, 2014 at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with the adoption of key decisions by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government.
Among other things, the Assembly adopted the 2050 Africa Integrated Maritime (AIM) Strategy plan of Action Plan. It also retained the 2015-2025 decade as the Decade of African Seas and Oceans, and the date of 25 July as the African Day of Seas and Oceans. The assembly invited regional economic communities and regional mechanisms to develop and adopt a regional strategy against piracy, armed robbery and other illegal activities committed at sea, consistent with the 2050 AIM Strategy.
According to Dr Christian Bueger, lecturer in International Relations at Cardiff University and writer for piracy-studies.org, these developments indicate the emergence of African maritime security communities. The 2050 AIM Strategy is one of the first true African efforts to reclaim the continent’s maritime security agenda and to move it beyond the international counter-piracy agenda, he says.
In developing the AIM Strategy, the AU recognized that Africa’s maritime domain has vast potential for wealth creation and that AU Member States have common maritime challenges, opportunities and significant responsibilities for generating the desirable political will for implementing the strategy.
Africa’s inland waters, oceans and seas are under pressure, says the AU. Over the years, traditional maritime activities, such as shipping or fisheries have intensified, while new ones, such as aquaculture or offshore renewable energy, emerged. However, the rise in intensity of activities at sea is taking place against the backdrop of insecurity, various forms of illegal trafficking, degradation of the marine environment, falling biodiversity and aggravated effects of climate change. In the past decades direct aggregate losses of revenue from illegal activities in Africa’s maritime domain amount to hundreds of billions US dollars and many lives lost.
The development agenda of the AU promotes, among other things, human capital development and improved standard of living. It is inclusive and based on a human-centered approach to development where all social groups are engaged. The agenda sees an Africa using its own resources to take its rightful place in a multi-polar, inter-reliant and more equitable world. In the maritime domain of Africa, the wide variety of related activities are inter-related to some extent, and all have a potential impact on the prosperity derivative through their contributions to social, economic and political stability, and safety and security. Notably, therefore, the approach to regulation and management of maritime issues and resources cannot be confined to a few select sectors or industries.