Gulf of Guinea was for years the most dangerous maritime area. However, years of cooperation building, training and partnerships raised operational level of local navies. The French-led maritime exercise Grand African NEMO 2021 revealed the improvement of African Navies.
Gulf of Guinea
Gulf of Guinea (GoG) is the most attractive African Maritime Area. Full of natural resources, such as fish or gas, this region of 2 350 00 km2 is a crossroad for 13 countries. Over 1 500 vessels are sailing in this area every day.
For decades, it has been one of the most dangerous areas for sailors and problems were numerous: piracy, robbery, kidnapping, human smuggling, and drug traffic. Countries were losing their natural sea resources, unable to control their territorial waters. But this year, when piracy attacks increased everywhere in the world, it remaineds stable in the GoG. How is that possible? Thanks to a common regional strategy and strong partnerships.
African Navies in action
October 22, Senegalese Navy seized 2 026 kg of cocaine. A few days after, a common patrol between Gambian and Senegalese navies arrested 3 fishing vessels in illegal fishing activities. What made this maritime operation successful? Coordination and competencies.
A few years ago, three cooperation centers were created: ICC (Interregional Coordination Center) in Yaoundé, CRESMAC (Regional Maritime Security Center for Central Africa) in Pointe-Noire and CRESMAO (Regional Maritime Security Center for West Africa) in Abidjan. The GoG is also divided in 5 areas (A, D, E, F and G), controlled by two Multinational Maritime Coordination Center.
Overall, capacities of African Navies deeply increased during past years. It was especially observed during Grand African NEMO 2021, a French-led maritime exercise started on 2 November with 29 nations.
One of the French instructors noticed that: “it is my third participation to Grand African Nemo and I had never seen such operational level and possibility of cooperation. I am proud to see results after years of mutual training and efforts from all sides, and see better days ahead for the region if we all keep it in that way”.
This feeling is apparently shared by an Ivorian officer who declared to be “proud to participate and to be an actor of this this large-scale exercise. It is not easy to coordinate 40 vessels at sea, but we are in the right direction and we need to continue closed cooperation”.
France, the historical partner for GoG navies
Since 1990 and the begin of the operation Corymbe, the French navy has been keeping deployed at least one warship in the GoG.
The cooperation with local navies and common patrols helped to prevent piracy and smuggling. As a lead-nation amongst the European Navies, its expertise is used by African nations to develop their capabilities to protect their maritime area and their sea resources from foreign attacks.
Moreover, the Maritime Domain Awareness for Trade – Gulf of Guinea (MDAT – GoG) is hosted by the MICA Center in Brest, France, and monitor piracy in the region sharing information with regional centers.