Ivory Coast: African and US Experts on Maritime Safety

Abidjan has just hosted, on February 14 – 17, a « workshop on the strategic integration for maritime safety » – in the West African sub region. Actually, the threat of terrorism by sea is a concern for nineteen countries – which sent about fifty participants – to pool African and American expertise.

South Africa, Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Djibouti, Somalia – where the terrorist group Al Shebab conducts attacks on merchant ships – went to Abidjan to attend a workshop on «maritime safety. » The United States has decided to support Africa in developing a strategy. This altruism has an interest, according to the Chargé d’Affaires of the American Embassy to Abidjan, Andrew Haviland.

Protect the United States and Americans

« The issue of maritime safety touches me personally because I have three children who work in the United States Navy (…). I therefore understand the importance of the investments required for a safer and more secure maritime environment, » the US diplomat said.

He then recalled that « the United States has a long maritime border. Like many other international partners, we depend on the maritime sector for a large part of our commercial and economic performance, » said Andrew Haviland.

The Abidjan workshop is a joint initiative of the United States, the Ivory Coast and the Center for Strategic Studies of Africa (CESA).

Ivorian participation

As part of this workshop, the Ivory Coast reiterated its commitment to contribute, through a synergy of sub regional actions, to maritime safety.

Alain Richard Donwahi, Minister of Defense, recalled the « strategies » in Africa – with the « African Integrated Strategy for Seas and Oceans by 2050, the African Union’s AIM 2050 Strategy and the Ivorian See State Strategy » – which stem from ECOWAS’ strategy. How can we implement these strategies consistently? The workshop intends to bring responses to this question.

« Inter-agency coordination, the pooling of resources, bold cooperation and the strengthening of the States’ legal systems » should, according to the Deputy Minister of Defense, contribute to a better safety of the African maritime space.

For Alain Richard Donwahi, CESA’s action is to be welcomed as it allows maritime safety players to « share their experiences and correct inconsistent action plans. »

Since 2014, the Ivorian government has equipped the National Navy with three patrollers called «Emergence», «the Shield» in 2015, and appointed a patrolman «Commander Sékongo» in 2016.

Pooling forces

Jean Paul Zunon, military strategist explains the stakes of this workshop: « the confirmed threat, maritime piracy ». He recommends « to keep coastal surveillance. »

« Unfortunately, we are not equipped enough for coastal surveillance. Four or five years ago, Ghana bought 4 patrol aircrafts. The Ivory Coast has tried to catch up, but we have to really get up to speed. Unfortunately, we have not enough resources. That is why we talk about pooling resources. Today, to develop a budgetary or security policy, we should think of oil platforms’ resources through taxes, especially the ships’. I think we did not have the courage to go far enough in that direction. »


Author: Issiaka N’GUESSAN // Photo: African and American delegations to Abidjan © Issiaka N’GUESSAN

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