International Lawyer expresses optimism for Africa’s blue economy

International Lawyer and Member of the AU Commission on International Law, Kathleen Quartey Ayensu, has expressed optimism for the fortunes of Africa’s blue economy.
Kathleen Quartey Ayensu

International Lawyer and Member of the AU Commission on International Law, Kathleen Quartey Ayensu, has expressed optimism for the fortunes of Africa’s blue economy.

Speaking on Eye on Port,  Kathleen Quartey Ayensu, who is also the special rapporteur for piracy and maritime security at the AU Commission on International Law intimated that the various policies and agreements being initiated at the continental level are geared toward developing Africa’s blue economy.

She said as far as the African Union is concerned, the most impactful document is Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS) 2050 which consists of the overarching, concerted and coherent long-term multi-layered plans of actions that will achieve the objectives of the AU to enhance maritime viability for a prosperous Africa.

It seeks to augment the complementarities of the various water-based resources, such as seas, lakes, rivers and lagoons, for the socio-economic benefits of Africans.

She said the AIMS requires each country to develop its own National Integrated Maritime Strategy, customising needs to suit local situations, and Ghana’s National Integrated Maritime Strategy (NIMS) is a function of that objective.

In addition to the AIMS, she said the African Charter on Maritime Transport 2010 revised, “seeks a return to the economic benefits of the maritime trade by enjoining Africans to own the vessels”.

She explained that the aspiration of the African Union is to leverage on this strategic framework for Africans to partake profitably in the lucrative maritime business. Nonetheless, she said it has been the slowest of the charters to get going because of the logistics and investments involved.

“That is not to say it is impossible. Nigerians own tankers and ships. We may not yet be into big time cruise industry, but Egypt is involved in cruise down the Nile,” she noted.

Kathleen Ayensu, however, vouched for the 2016 Lomé Charter on Maritime Security and Safety and Development in Africa, which she described as “an extensive roadmap and guiding document for the maritime sector in Africa.”

She said because the annexes for that document are still being ironed out, only two countries have ratified even though more than 30 countries have agreed in principle, indicating a willingness to cooperate on it.

The Lomé Charter is a Pan-African legal instrument that represents the progressive engagement of the African Union in the governance of the seas and oceans.

It seeks to prevent and suppress national and transnational crime including terrorism, piracy, armed robbery against ships, drug trafficking, smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons.

It also seeks to tackle illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, as well as protecting the marine environment to promote a sustainable Blue Economy.

She revealed that 2020 was the year set for implementation of the programme for a sustainable blue economy but was set back by the pandemic. However, she said: “There has been a reawakening in the African Union members regarding the Blue Economy.” Accordingly, the commissioner called on all Ghanaian stakeholders sponsoring legislation to rekindle engagement with the Attorney-General’s office to promote the passage of new, contemporary maritime legislation. This is even more important since Ghana is a member of the Security Council.

Nevertheless, the veteran lawyer expressed some concern for how much of a priority the AU Commission can realistically give the Blue Economy among its many agendas. She said: “The African Union portfolio for the sector is such that Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment are under one resident Commissioner. That is a lot to lump together; so one hopes the Blue Economy will not get minimised or side-lined.”

Kathleen Quartey Ayensu continues to double down on her faith for Africa’s Blue Economy agenda, as long as it aligns with the United Nations own sustainable development agenda for the oceans and life under sea.

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