African Heads of State and Government have adopted and signed the African Charter on Maritime Security, Safety and Development on Saturday, 15 October 2016 at the Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government in Lomé, Togo.
43 of the AU’s 54 members — 38 of which have a coastline — adopted the summit text, which is binding. It commits signatories to environmental protection and act on maritime crime as well as trafficking in drugs, arms and people.
The text also commits signatories to creating national and regional institutions “to promote maritime security.”
The adoption of the Charter followed recommendations for its adoption made by the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC) and the Executive Council Sessions, which were held from 11-14 October 2016.
The African Charter on Maritime Security, Safety and Development aims to solidify Africa’s commitment to an efficient and effective management of its oceans, seas and waterways so as to ensure sustainable, equitable and beneficial exploration of these critical resources.
The Assembly urged Member States to ratify the Charter in accordance with their relevant national procedures, and begin its implementation.
In his remarks, Idriss Deby Itno, President of the Republic of Chad and Chairperson of the Union, highlighted that the African Charter on Maritime Security, Safety and Development aligns itself with the Continent’s desire to adopt a concrete plan of action, that when implemented, would operationalize prior engagements and strategies to which Member States have subscribed. It is in its conception a cooperative instrument that will integrate into and complement existing frameworks.
Host President Faure Gnassingbe of Togo, underscored the fact that the Charter is a legally binding instrument that will facilitate the consolidation of efforts in combating maritime security threats and promote trade, the sustainable exploitation of our marine resources as well as to provide an opportunity for wealth and job creation.
“We are happy to announce the adoption and signing of a charter on maritime security and safety and development in Africa,” Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso said, hailing an “historic” decision that would boost economic and social development.
The Chairperson of the AU Commission, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, assured Member States that the Commission would organize the relevant consultations to complete the developmental aspects of the blue economy. She said these issues would also incorporate observations and proposals from continental associations of shipping owners, women in maritime, administrators and port operators.
Dr. Dlamini Zuma urged the leaders to find ways to strengthen the participation of women and young people in the industry, given “trillions worth of dollars in goods and services and millions of jobs in the sector.
The Chairperson took the opportunity to extend congratulatory messages from the Women In Maritime Africa (WIMA) to the President of Guinea who has recently appointed a woman Director General and Deputy Director General to run the port of Guinea Conakry, and expressed her wish that many more countries could do the same. Concluding her inputs she said there will be processes that would further elaborate on the developmental aspects of the Charter.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, whose country has suffered from insecurity in the Gulf of Aden, praised the outcome of the meeting as a display of Africa’s ability to put together a continent-wide strategy.