In the past, the maritime domain has not featured prominently on the policy agenda of the African Union and Regional Economic Communities (RECs). Neither the 1963 founding Charter of the Organization of African Unity (OUA), nor the 2002 Constitutive Act of the African Union (AU the successor of the AOU) contain any explicit reference to the sea or inland waterways and lakes.
On 31 January, at the 22nd Summit of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, African Heads of States and Governments adopted the 2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy (2050 AIM Stragey, see webpage here) and Plan of Action. Outlining an overall strategy “to address Africa’s maritime challenges for sustainable development and competitiveness” (§11), the strategy is in fact only the latest piece in a number of maritime security efforts on the continent and “flag a recent pattern of African responses to maritime vulnerabilities that says something about a declaratory shift away from a period of self-imposed sea blindness” (Vrey 2013: 4). In fact, Africa’s leaders also declared the 2015-2025 decade as the “Decade of African Seas and Oceans”, and the date of 25 July as the African Day of Seas and Oceans.
According to Bueger (2013), these developments indicate the emergence of African maritime security communities. A “security community is characterized by a shared repertoire that includes a shared securitization, a joint enterprise to include shared projects of protection, and a high level of mutual engagement” (ibid: 303).
The 2050 AIM Strategy is the one of the first true African effort to reclaim the continent’s maritime security agenda and to move it beyond the international counter-piracy agenda. Towards this end, the strategy sets out to strengthen, develop and shape a coherent African maritime security community; this community, as it takes shape in The 2050 AIM Strategy and other initiatives, reflects African experiences and desires, and seeks to define an African programme for the protection and realization of Africa’s maritime development potential.