Africa will come together to battle piracy and illegal fishing for the first time at an African Union maritime security summit that kicks off in Togo on October 15.
The continent urgently needs to fight "extremely high stakes" piracy and illegal fishing in its waters by joining forces over policy and working to raise necessary funds, Togo's Foreign Minister Robert Dussey said ahead of the meeting.
Why is this meeting being held?
"These are very high stakes for Africa. At least 92 per cent of imported goods arrive on the continent across the seas and oceans. Of the 54 countries in the African Union, 33 have a coastline," said Dussey.
"During the summit, several issues will be tackled and piracy comes first. A few years ago, it was mostly shipping in the Gulf of Aden, off Somalia, that fell victim to pirates. Now it's in the Gulf of Guinea. Between 2005 and the present, we have suffered more than 205 attacks. Pirates give priority to raids on oil tankers but they also target merchant shipping.
"However, the Lome summit will not only be devoted to safety on the seas. We shall also deal with the issues of illegal fishing, pollution... the matter of trafficking of all kinds, drug trafficking and trafficking in human beings.
"Most African countries that have a coastline are victims of one of these problems, which is why it's so important for African leaders to sit down and try to find solutions."
What is the so-called 'blue economy'?
"The blue economy comprises everything connected with the sea, such as fish stocks, offshore mineral and hydrocarbon resources, the biodiversity we need to safeguard and port activities. On the African continent, we have young fishermen who were able to go on to the high seas a few years ago, but they can no longer sail out for several reasons: piracy, the depletion of resources caused by illegal fishing.
"It matters to us that the blue economy should continue to support the standard of living of African populations."
What will this meeting achieve?
"The Lome summit is a summit of the African Union, the whole continent is gathering. The goal is the adoption of an African Union Charter on maritime safety and security and development.
"The text is binding. The Charter requires states to work collegially, regionally, to ensure safety and maritime security. And it also provides for financial support... The signatory countries will themselves contribute to ensuring their own maritime security. We need to give countries sophisticated resources at the regional level.
"Because it is a binding text, there will inevitably be reticence on the part of some countries, but we are trying to bring about a consensus and I hope that the Charter will be adopted during the evening on October 15."