I would like to join with others in welcoming you to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies’ Whole-of-Africa Maritime Dialogue. My name is Peter Lord, and I am the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy here in Windhoek.
The United States has long been committed to working with Africa to help African states and regions secure, govern, and develop their maritime spaces, and this event is a continuation of that process.
Africa has done a lot that deserves credit and celebration when it comes to maritime safety and security, particularly in the last decade. An important part of that success is communicating it. Whether it is the initiative taken by the Gulf of Guinea countries to operationalize the Yaoundé Code of Conduct through standing up maritime zones, or the efforts of states like Angola and Kenya that have hosted continent-wide conferences on maritime security and development, there is truly a lot to celebrate. I hope the event this week will serve to further that discussion and will be as an opportunity for you to share experiences, successes, challenges, and ideas related to Africa’s maritime issues.
I am particularly pleased Namibia is hosting this dialogue and delighted that you will have a chance this week to hear the Namibian perspective on maritime security, governance, and development. Namibia’s story is genuinely unique, successful, and deserving of credit.
In August of this year, Namibia’s Walvis Bay Port expansion will be officially commissioned, making it the largest port between Cape Town and Lagos. Beyond the processing capacity of close to one million containers per year and offering dry ports for other countries in the southern Africa region, Walvis Bay is also welcoming an increasing number of passenger cruise ships. Several of these cruise ships have onward destinations in Europe and North America, including New York City. Walvis Bay Port is strengthening the transportation and people-to-people links across the Atlantic Ocean and helping to further develop Namibia’s tourism sector.
This modern infrastructure builds on Namibia’s proud fishing tradition. Fisheries governance is an area of particular interest here and is tied closely to Namibia’s proactive approach to wildlife conservation. Namibians have long recognized the need to be good stewards of the country’s natural and living resources, and I hope that hearing Namibia’s approach —to countering both trafficking of wildlife and Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing — will help inspire other states participating this week. Namibia’s commitments to safeguarding its waters and promoting sustainable fishing are justifiably gaining international recognition.
All of this – the port, the cruise ships and tourism, the fishing – make up part of the “blue economy.” That term – “blue economy” – is generally associated with the sustainable, responsible, and inclusive use of ocean resources for economic growth. However, it also represents a shift in thinking. It represents a greater integration and coordination on managing maritime issues.
As much as there is to celebrate about the blue economy, there are also challenges. Those challenges continue to change with our evolving use and management of oceans. Maritime security is a central component to the successful and sustainable management of ocean resources. Trafficking, piracy, and environmental crimes constitute serious threats to national economies, the social fabric of a state, and the rule of law. Such transnational crime at sea hurts us all, and it requires a coordinated response from us all. Making real progress will require real action and strong cooperation. The United States will remain a strong partner with African nations in this endeavor.
I hope this week will help you integrate and coordinate efforts nationally and internationally to provide maritime security throughout Africa and protect an important generator of economic growth.
When I looked at this week’s program, I could not help but notice that there are only two American speakers the whole week — the rest are all African. That in and of itself is indicative of both the level of expertise on this continent, and the approach the United States is taking to help facilitate the free flow of knowledge and experience among Africans.
I am also delighted you will have an opportunity to see some of Windhoek while here, and I know you will leave this dialogue with a wider network of contacts — both as colleagues and as friends.