Kathy Gibson reports from the Maritime and Coastal Security conference in Cape Town – The blue economy is the new frontline of Africa’s renaissance, says Samuel Kame-Domguia, co-ordinator: 2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy Force, African Union Ethiopia.

In Africa the threats undermine the security of the individual, state and regional or international trade, he says.

The forces that will help to shape policies in the future can be categorised as climate change, demographics, globalisation and natural resources.

Climate change is real, says Kame-Domguia. Sea levels are rising and this will cause a dramatic change in the way we manage our coasts and build infrastructure; the way we handle issues about water.

The demographic dynamics are also issues of great importance that will shape the way we look at things, the way we build and strategies our future.

“In Nigeria there will be more babies born today than in all Europe put together – that is something we have to be concerned about.”

At the same time, many coastal cities are threatened by rising sea levels and could actually disappear.

Globalisation leads to trans-national and organised crime, Kame-Donguia says. Just a few years ago, Africa was considered immune from drug trafficking, but today it is a major hub. Globalisation raises new challenges relating to security and maritime security, and needs to be considered for capacity planning.

Natural resources will be one of the major driving forces of the future, he says. “We believe that known resources, with the demographics, there will be more need for resources to address the needs of both global and local populations.”

The threats surrounding the maritime domain, Kame-Donguia says, include a number of areas.

One of these is the fact that, over the past five decades, Africa has lost more than $100-billion in unregulated fishing. There are also environmental issues such as toxic waste dumping and oil spills. A further %100-billion has been lost from illegal oil bunkering between 2003 and 2008, he adds.

In addition, piracy and armed robbery, terrorism, human trafficking, arms trafficking and drug trafficking combine with issues such a global warming, sea level rises and climate change.

These elements, particularly the illegal activities, also leads to violence, insecurity and corruption, Kame-Donguia adds. It can be used to finance the purchase of weapons, escalate youth unemployment, cause environmental pollution and destabilise communal life.

“We need to ask why a source of opportunity has become a curse,” Kame-Donguia says. “How have we come to this?”

Feedback from delegates in the audience include a belief that governments are unable to provide basic amenities for communities, which the turn to piracy to sustain themselves.

Kame-Donguia urges delegates to the conference to transform something that could be a curse into an opportunity.

International criminals are not waiting for policies to be approved, he adds, and African maritime organisations should be moving forward to implement strategies and policies that will address the many challenges.

“This is the situation we are facing in Africa; the breadth of what we have to address in Africa. And this will take capacity and resources.”

Some will be sea power resources, both military and blue economy.

“We also need to bring together all the sectors involved, all the agencies involved in the maritime domain,” he adds.

But one of the most pressing needs, Kame-Donguia says, is political will and support. Leaders from different countries will have to come together and agree to co-operate. “The threats are trans-national in nature, so the solutions need to be trans-national as well.

“The basic thing we need to do is change the way we look at the sea: we need to start looking at it as an opportunity for growth, we believe everything will fall into place and lead us to an entrepreneurial mindset of wealth creation. At the same time, this will enhance the dignity of the populations.”