From 15 to 17 November 2017, I participated in a course about maritime security and transnational organised crime. The course was hosted by CEMLAWS Africa in Accra, Ghana. About 15 participants from various government agencies in Ghana and Nigeria attended, including the Ghana Navy and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
I had been invited to provide thoughts on West Africa maritime security from a shipping industry point of view. At the same time, I picked up a lot of information about coordination between different government agencies involved in maritime security. Furthermore, the course was hosted by the Ghana Armed Forces Staff College, a perfect place for interesting conversations with high-ranking military officers.
CEMLAWS Africa is an independent, non-profit institution based in Ghana. The organisation wants to improve ocean governance and maritime security in Africa. First and foremost, it combines policy understanding, research expertise and practical insights to deliver responses to maritime issues.
West Africa maritime security
The presentations in Accra were part of a larger trip to Benin, Togo and Ghana. On behalf of Risk Intelligence, I visited the ports in Cotonou, Lomé, Takoradi and Tema and spoke to many security officials.
My overall impression was that all those ports still have issues but have made progress in recent years. All three governments have invested into new infrastructure and brought in partners from the private sector. Maritime trade will become increasingly important in the future as national economies grow and more goods are imported or exported.
While maritime security is just one factor influencing trade routes, a secure environment is important for ship operators or the oil and gas industry. In short, security is marketable (as I have argued before). Governments should therefore continue to invest in the necessary capacities and into human resources. That is important to further stimulate maritime trade in West Africa.