With regard to the blue economy, EAC countries are home to three notable water bodies: Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika and the Indian Ocean. On 3 October 2019, IPSS and Oxfam International jointly organized a briefing session on ‘Challenges of Maritime Security and the Blue Economy in the East African Community’. The briefing session attracted more than 25 participants from institutions such as the AU, Addis Ababa University, and the Ethiopian Maritime Authority. The presentation was delivered by Mr. Christantus Begealawuh Nchongayi, Peace and Security Program Assistant at Oxfam Pan Africa and an IPSS alumnus.
In his opening remarks, Dr. Yonas stated that in Africa, resource-induced conflicts often occur due to an abundance of resources, a complete lack of resources, or the scarcity of resources.
Mr. Nchongayi shared that while 38 African countries are coastal states, they do not properly utilize this resource. While some argue this is due to colonial legacy and general sea blindness, others suggest that African states are overly focused on land resources. The East African Community (EAC), for instance, has made good progress on regional integration but not on maritime security policy and sea governance. The main challenges faced by EAC member states include piracy and armed robbery against ships, human trafficking, and disputes between countries. However, in order to tackle these challenges, the member states have implemented different initiatives such as the EAC Treaty Customs Union (2005), Common Market (2010), and plans for a Monetary Union (2024) and Political Federation.
With regard to the blue economy, EAC countries are home to three notable water bodies: Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika and the Indian Ocean. However, challenges such as existing inland water disputes, illegal fishing, pollution, maritime accidents and climate change prevent the full utilization of these resources.
Mr. Nchongayi urged EAC member states and other African states to implement the following recommendations:
- Cooperate on maritime security policy to sustainably exploit the blue economy;
- Enhance inland water transport;
- Develop and promote regional maritime security policy with the purpose of minimizing over reliance on international partners and conventions;
- Support its capacity on maritime security, especially on its courts.
It was noted that water resources are complex, cross-sectoral, and often cross-jurisdictional and trans-boundary. Thus, coordination among different actors at the local, national, regional and global levels is required. Furthermore, there should be trust and confidence among stakeholders because the maritime security and the blue economy agendas are two sides of the same coin.
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