Africa’s Maritime Domain: Can the Regional States Ensure a Stable Regime in the Indian Ocean Region?

by P.V. Rao

The unstable and fragile political regimes of many of the African littoral countries in the Indian Ocean Region compound the problems of managing their maritime domains.

Maritime criminal and illegal operations are confined not only to the coastal states but also to the island states of the continent. The inability of these states to combat the threats regularly posed by maritime non-state actors has resulted in the enormous naval militarisation of the African waters by foreign naval forces, Western and non-Western. How far and how long the states of the region should depend on foreign countries for ensuring the safety of their coastal zones will also determine the level of independence that these states will retain to keep their maritime wealth and domain under their sovereign control.

Maritime Crime

Africa’s maritime profile bears certain unique features which are different from those of other regions. The continent is flanked by a quadrilateral maritime belt, if one counts the Suez water linking the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. Out of the fifty three states of Africa only fifteen are land-locked states and a little above 70% share seas waters around, thus leaving the many littoral states depend heavily on the maritime economy. Therefore, any natural or human intervention that disturbs the ocean’s ecology and security has adverse bearing on the livelihood of the African coastal people. And contemporary African littorals are already victims of such maritime threats engineered mostly by non-state agents like pirates, poachers and terrorist outfits. Fragile and weak coastal regimes are unable to combat these threats. In short, African states are unable to individually or collectively ensure a stable maritime order and governance in their maritime domain.

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