Adopted by the African Union last year, Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy 2050, AIM 2050, represents a major movement towards developing Africa’s Blue Economy in a sustainable and a secure way. It serves as an overarching framework for a variety of African maritime strategies to address security challenges and curb illegalities, as well as to promote sustainable resource management and ignite wealth creation from Africa’s oceans, rivers and lakes. However, as John Hughes, Managing Director of SABT, a wholly African business operating in over 50 ports around the African coastline points out, steps now need to be taken by governments and other Blue Economy stakeholders to ensure that vision and mission of the strategy are achieved.

“The recent conference, ‘Implementing Africa’s maritime security strategies’, held in Pretoria is the kind of event the continent’s maritime industries need to highlight issues, identify priorities, make high-level recommendations, foster co-operation and encourage the political will that is needed to translate the maritime strategy into action,” Hughes says. The event, jointly convened in May by the UK’s discussion forum, Wilton Park and Africa’s Institute for Security Studies (ISS) brought together diplomats, researchers and naval leaders from 21 countries.

Africa is highly dependent on the sea. With more than 90% of the continent’s trade being seaborne, the oceans are Africans primary means of getting goods to and from markets. Fish contribute to the food security of more than 200 million Africans. Despite this, ISS senior researcher Barthelemy Blede said at the conference: “Much of Africa lacks a maritime culture and is blind to the oceans’ importance to its development. More often than not it leaves others to profit from its rich marine resources.”

It is exactly this ‘sea-blindness’ that SABT, an African-owned maritime fuel supplier aims to counter with its business model. “SABT has an African solution to providing professional marine fuel services,” Hughes comments, “For years now we’ve proved that shipping around the African coastline can be safe, efficient, competitive and profitable. We’ve done this by establishing long-standing relationships with local operators, transferring skills and knowledge and increasing financial gains for legitimate local businesses which would otherwise be overwhelmed by lack of resources and the trade in poor quality black market oil products.”

While the conference delegates discussed pressing security issues such as piracy and armed robbery, the trafficking of people, arms and drugs, the dumping of hazardous waste and unregulated fishing, Hughes points out that these challenges occur in oceans all around the world. “The main issue is how to increase African countries’ capacities so that they are empowered to make well co-ordinated and effective responses that secure their rich Blue Economy for the benefit of African people.”