In early November, Nigeria sent 1 troops aboard 500 warships to the Gulf of Guinea to fight piracy. Under the patronage of the French army, the chiefs of staff from 13 countries in the region met in Pointe-Noire, Congo, to discuss the subject.
Is the fight against piracy a real issue for the African countries concerned? With 95% of the world's sea attacks occurring in the Gulf of Guinea - 200 ship attacks - and $ 800 million in annual losses, it begs the question who provides maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.
In the past, the Gulf of Aden and the southern Red Sea were the favorite terrain of sea pirates in Africa. Since 2013, the phenomenon has amplified, this time on the other side of the African continent. And the national navies of the region, which stretches from Liberia in the west to Angola in the south, appear helpless in the face of a growing phenomenon.
The oil reserves of foreign companies and Asian maritime transport are the first victims of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. And foreign operators are caught between a rock and a hard place: on the one hand, the states concerned are concentrating on the dispute between them concerning the maritime borders inherited from colonization; on the other hand, Western military forces present at the scene are unable to prevent crime due to international law which prevents intervention in the sovereign waters of states.
But Nigeria seems to want to take action. The country has deployed 1 troops there, thirteen ships and two additional combat helicopters. And the sixteen States of the Gulf of Guinea are considering establishing a common framework to fight more effectively against piracy in the region.
African countries lacking in financial resources
But what can these states do to come to an agreement among themselves? Invited as a courtesy, the French army managed to take the reins of the meeting on the fight against piracy. But the presence of the French general François Xavier Mabin irritates the participants, who would prefer to find an African solution to an African problem. "The navies of the Gulf of Guinea are confronted with common threats: the predation of natural resources, in particular fish stocks, piracy and of course the phenomenon of illegal immigration", indicated the French general during the meeting held. in Pointe-Noire, the economic capital of Congo-Brazzaville, last Monday.
However, two real concerns arise in the face of this threat: the disagreements between the countries of the region, first of all. The borders inherited from colonization cause disputes, notably between Togo and Ghana on one side, and Nigeria and Benin on the other. The insufficiency of income from Western oil and commercial rents is also a major issue. Out of hundreds of oil projects in the Gulf of Guinea, African states perceive only too small a share to be able to invest sustainably in the fight against piracy.
Whether it is Chinese operations in Angolan waters, British in Ghana, and French between Benin and Togo ... Inefficiency is there and, now, Western companies blame the host countries for their laxity. The only country in the region with a significant military presence, Nigeria deploys troops mainly for the fight against terrorism.
Nigeria, more legitimate than France?
It is in this context that the Congolese Prime Minister, Anatole Collinet Makosso, presented the dilemma he is facing. "For the year 2020 alone, the Gulf of Guinea has been the object of 195 attacks against ships approaching the coasts and territorial waters, with pirate means and methods constantly reinforced for some time", a- he said in Pointe-Noire.
In the first nine months of 2021, there has been a decline in pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea region. In this region, as the latest report from the International Maritime Bureau (BMI) of the International Chamber of Commerce indicates, there were 28 ambushes at sea in the first nine months of 2021, compared to 46 during the same period in 2020. Nigeria reported only four incidents in the first nine months of 2021, compared to 17 in 2020 and 41 in 2018.
But while Nigeria is gradually establishing itself as the first maritime defense force in the sub-region, the French presence in this matter continues to make people talk. The meeting in Pointe-Noire should make it possible to find an African solution to a phenomenon which remains significant.