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Invest in cutting-edge maritime technology, Akufo-Addo urges Gulf of Guinea states

Akufo-Addo said Gulf of Guinea nations must stay a step ahead of the sophisticated technologies being used by perpetrators of maritime crime

President Akufo-Addo has called on countries along the Gulf of Guinea to invest in cutting-edge maritime governance technology that can support efforts aimed at securing their territorial waters from the activities of patriates and other criminals who operate on the high seas.

The Gulf of Guinea has countries such as Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Liberia, Togo, Nigeria, Republic of Congo and São Tomé and Príncipe within its boundaries.

Speaking at the 2023 International Maritime Defence Conference and Exhibition, as well as the launch of the National Integrated Maritime Strategy (NIMS), of the Republic of Ghana at Burma Hall in Burma Camp today (Tuesday 29 August 2023), President Akufo-Addo said nations along the Gulf of Guinea must stay a step ahead of the sophisticated technologies being used by perpetrators of maritime crime.

Opening of International Maritime Defence Conference and Exhibition 2023/Gulf of Guinea (29 August 2023)

According to President Akufo-Addo, the theme for the conference, “Consolidating the Gains made in the Gulf of Guinea: The Role of Stakeholders and Technology in Sustaining a Safe and Secure Maritime Domain”, was most appropriate, considering the challenges that the Gulf of Guinea maritime space is facing.

“I commend the excellent collaborative efforts between the navies in the [Gulf of Guinea region], our international partners and stakeholders for the considerable reduction in maritime crimes, especially piracy.

“Technology has become a vital tool in our quest to sustain a safe and secure maritime domain. The critical challenge is that perpetrators of maritime crimes use sophisticated forms of technology which require a more innovative counter-advance technology that give enforcers a comparative advantage,” President Akufo-Addo said.

“Maritime security stakeholders must take charge of this domain in order to deny access to terrorist groups drifting southwards from the Sahel region towards the Gulf of Guinea.

Minister of National Security Albert Kan Dapaah and President Akufo-Addo at the opening of International Maritime Defence Conference and Exhibition 2023/Gulf of Guinea (29 August 2023)

“I must stress the need for multifaceted technological approach to deny unauthorized use of the underwater, surface and above water resources by criminals and economic saboteurs” Akufo-Addo added.

Maritime commons

The President in his remarks further noted that “no single country, ministry of agencies can develop the blue economy alone. The maritime commons, he said, “are connected in diverse ways” hence, there is “the need for a national, regional and international collaboration towards achieving [the Gulf of Guinea’s] collaborative aspirations”.

“It is important to note that all these strategies are hunched on a functional and effective maritime governance system that is able to detect illegal activity at sea and has the right structures on shore to ensure law enforcement” President Akufo-Addo remarked.

President Akufo-Addo at the opening of International Maritime Defence Conference and Exhibition 2023/Gulf of Guinea (29 August 2023)

Focus on technology 

Rear Admiral Issah Adam Yakubu, Chief of Naval Staff, observed that there has been a steady decline in piracy and other maritime crimes in the Gulf of Guinea in recent times because of the collaborative efforts of regional and international partners, as well as increased use of technology in maritime operations.

“We have chosen to focus on the role of stakeholders and technology in sustaining a safe and secure maritime domain for this year’s conference,” Rear Admiral Yakubu said.

“Our region’s blue economy has suffered significantly from disruptions in international trade, fishing and other challenges due to the insecurity in our maritime domain.

“It is therefore imperative that we review our efforts so far and learn lessons from our past and current experiences in order to develop innovative strategies to curb emerging maritime threats,” the rear admiral added.

Secure maritime domain

On Ghana’s newly launched National Integrated Maritime Strategy (NIMS), President Akufo-Addo called on all stakeholders to participate fully in realising the vision and objectives of the NIMS to ensure that the interests of generations present and future are protected.

President Akufo-Addo opens the International Maritime Defence Conference and Exhibition 2023/Gulf of Guinea (29 August 2023)

”I am happy to note that Ghana has taken steps to strengthen maritime governance and also harmonise activities in the maritime sector with the adoption of Ghana’s National Integrated Maritime Strategy,” President Akufo-Addo said.

“It is expected the successful operationalisation of the strategy and its detailed implementation plan will bolster co-operation among all relevant stakeholders – notably the various ministries, departments and agencies, actors within Ghana’s security architecture, civil society organisations and international partners – to achieve the vision of a safe and secure maritime domain, and a thriving blue economy sector that would enhance the livelihoods of Ghanaians and boost our GDP growth,” the president said.

The NIMS

This National Integrated Maritime Strategy (NIMS) has been developed by a multi- agency Ghanaian team at a crucial moment in our history when there is burgeoning awareness of the contribution made by our oceans to sustainable development (as outlined in number 14 of the Sustainable Development Goals); a moment in our history when our oceans are faced with a convoluted set of maritime threats as well as increasingly complex conservation and management concerns.

Display of surveillance equipment at the opening of International Maritime Defence Conference and Exhibition 2023/Gulf of Guinea (29 August 2023)

This strategy is intended to chart viable courses of action towards addressing relevant issues to ensure that Ghana’s maritime domain is considered safe and secure globally, with strong blue economy sectors that not only generate substantial national income, but also ultimately improve living standards.

The NIMS is guided by seven core principles: national ownership, social inclusion and impact, synergy, accountability, partnerships and co-operation and technology, innovation and sustainability.

Each of these principles is ingrained in the provisions mapped out in the founding document, making the NIMS a living strategy – one that takes into account current and future maritime threats and opportunities to advance Ghana through a sustainable and prosperous ocean economy, for the benefit of all Ghanaians.

The NIMS has been developed with six strategic objectives in mind for Ghana. First, strengthen the framework for maritime governance. Second, ensure the safety and security of Ghana’s maritime domain and third, develop a thriving blue economy.

Opening of International Maritime Defence Conference and Exhibition 2023/Gulf of Guinea (29 August 2023)

Fourth is to “protect our marine and coastal environment; fifth, promote capacity-building, research, awareness and knowledge-sharing in the maritime domain; and lastly, develop dynamic and diversified regional and international co-operation.

These strategic objectives are backed by recommended priority actions – specific goals which must be met to ensure that we attain the broad vision of the NIMS.

The strategy, supported by its implementation plans, will be executed by a National Maritime Council, chaired by the vice-president of the Republic of Ghana.

Reporting by Wilberforce Asare in Accra

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