African Heads of State adopt the African Maritime Security, safety and Development Charter

IOCAFRICA Technical Secretary, IOC Executive Secretary and former IOC Vice Chair during an exhibition at the Lome summit

The African Heads of State, adopted the African Charter on Maritime Security, safety and Development (Lome Charter) during an extra ordinary session of the Assembly of the African Union in Lome, Togo on 15 October 2016. The session was preceded by experts’ sessions, and meetings of the Permanent Representatives Committee and the Executive Council from 10-14 October 2016. 

The main focus of the charter is to protect the region’s oceans, seas and waterways from criminal activities, advance equitable exploration that is beneficial to the region as well as ensure sustainability of the oceans, seas, water ways and their associated resources like fishery. 

The conference reinforced the potential of our oceans, seas and waterways and highlighted the challenges that have brought the continent to the current concerns which includes; piracy, drug and weapon trafficking among other vices. The conference provided a consultative platform where leaders and experts could deliberate and forge the way to achieving Maritime Security and Development in the Region.

The charter comes at a time when the region is losing 50 billion USD to poor management of the water bodies, a time when the region is losing 10-23 billion dollars to illegal fishing and when 1 of 5 pirate attacks occur in the Gulf of Guinea. To bring this figure down, cooperation and commitment from all the signatories and stakeholders is paramount especially during the implementation process.

Of the 54 countries in the region, 34 countries enjoy coastlines that adds up to 13 million kilometers of shoreline. The economic prospectus of the region’s ocean, seas and waterways is encouraging if proper management measures are put in place and are well implemented by all players. This is because over 90% of exports and 65% of energy is transported by sea, ocean and waterways. 

The potential of blue economy or blue growth has in the recent years been popularized by many developmental organizations globally. It cannot be overlooked especially because 70% of the world is covered by water and 60% of the world’s population lives by water bodies. We should however realize that only 0.6% of oceans and sea surface is protected and over 95% remains unexplored. It was therefore important for experts and regional leaders converge to endorse and provide a technical and legal framework to ensure that the oceans, seas and waterways were protected and also ensure that the stakeholders benefit from these resources.

In 2015, the world adopted the Sustainable Development Goals that are to be implemented by 2030 by both industrialized and developing countries. One of the goals (Goal 14) emphasizes on life below water and demonstrates how they are essential for proper functioning of the ecosystems through their goods and services. Statistics reveal that over 75% of world’s fisheries have already been overexploited through overfishing and habitat destruction thereby reducing fish stocks and raising sustainability concerns over these fishing zones.

Climate change is another aspect that the oceans, seas and water ways assist in reducing its effects as well as providing ways through which people could adopt to the effects of climate change. We realize more than 50% of the oxygen we breathe is produced by the oceans and absorbs more than 50% carbon dioxide reducing the levels of Green House Gases and ocean acidification illustrating the importance on having healthy oceans in fighting climate change.

To enable realization and success of the Lome Charter, all stakeholders from all countries should advance cooperation and affirmative action amongst themselves to ensure protection of the oceans, seas and waterways by localizing the charter and implementing it in their countries as well as collaborate with other like-minded organizations.