95 percent of all trade in countries on the East, Horn and in the Southern Africa region pass through seaports and other maritime routes.
Due to the high amount of incoming traffic, seaports across Africa are vulnerable to transnational crime and smuggling.
In order to better secure sea borders in Africa’s vast coastline, 40 technical experts from 12 countries are gathered in Madagascar for a three-day regional conference to identify priority actions to support continental and regional solutions in this field.
The experts include officials from entities responsible for migration management and maritime security.
The event, which started on 1st October, is jointly organized by IOM -the UN Migration Agency-, the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC), and Interpol.
The conference is organized under the Better Migration Management (BMM) programme - a regional, multi-year, multi-partner programme funded by the EU Trust Fund for Africa and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
The overall objective of this programme is to improve migration management in the Horn of Africa region, and in particular to address the trafficking of human beings and the smuggling of migrants within and from the Horn of Africa while taking into consideration the countries specific migration dynamics.
IOM is one of the main implementing partners for the BMM programme along with UNODC, GIZ, Expertise France, Italian State Police, CIVIPOL and the British Council.
The conference gathers BMM partner countries from the Horn of Africa region (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Sudan) as well as from the Indian Ocean (Comoros, France (Réunion), Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles and Tanzania).
The focus is on maritime security and transnational organized crime including common threats such as piracy, terrorism, arms smuggling, corruption, human trafficking and smuggling of persons, drug trafficking, and other illegal acts.
Safety of goods and persons
In his welcome remarks, Jeffrey Labovitz, IOM’s Regional Director for East and Horn of Africa, emphasised that “facilitating the safe and orderly movement of goods and persons remains a priority concern at ports and along sea borders”.
He added that “this Regional Conference provides a unique opportunity to strengthen regional collaborative approaches related to maritime security threats and challenges among them trafficking in human beings and smuggling of migrants.”
For his part, Hamada Madi, the IOC’s Secretary General welcomed this initiative and stressed the importance of establishing formal regional mechanisms for the exchange of maritime information and the coordination of joint operations at sea to enhance maritime governance.
“The two MASE (Maritime Security Programme) regional agreements set the base for these regional maritime security mechanisms, which are in line with the needs of the region. Five countries signed these agreements but, it is of utmost importance that other States join and sign them to ensure a more sustainable and stronger maritime security and safety architecture in the Western Indian Ocean”, Hamada Madi noted.
The conference builds on the Ministerial Conference of the IOC on maritime security issues held in April 2018 in Mauritius where ministers in charge of security and representatives of regional organizations adopted a Declaration on Maritime Security in the Western Indian Ocean.
Member states had also reiterated the need to continue their commitment and that of regional organizations towards the sharing and exchange of maritime information and the coordination of action at sea through dedicated regional Centres.