Even though they contend that a lot has been done in that direction, much more work needed to be done to bring the continent’s maritime industry at par with the developed nations.
Against this background, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, appealed to member states to ensure that the Maritime Organisation of West and Central Africa (MOWCA) continued to contribute positively to the growth of the industry.
Mrs Botchwey made the call at the 17th Extraordinary General Assembly of MOWCA in Accra.
“We are aware of the enormous contribution of the maritime industry to our individual economies, especially as the most cost-effective way of transporting large amounts of goods over long distances.”
The objective of MOWCA is to serve the Regional and International Community in the handling of maritime-related issues that were regional in nature, she stated at a gathering of experts and policymakers.
That responsibility, she said, cut across the promotion of port development and facilitation, the development of coastal shipping networks, the strengthening of regional maritime academies in member states and ensuring maritime safety and environmental protection in the two sub-regions.
The meeting was held on the theme; “For cost effective maritime transport services, high on safety and security, low on pollution.”
She advised the organisation to begin frank discussion on current developments in Green Shipping initiatives which involved the use of alternative fuels with low or zero carbon, in place of fossil fuels, as that was fast becoming the new way of shipping and Africa cannot afford to be left behind.
Ms Ayorkor Botchwey said Africa’s maritime industry must, therefore, be prepared for the cost ramifications of the impending transition to cleaner fuels and its effects on possible increased freight rates.
“It would be pertinent to identify possible ways to benefit from any fund arising thereof, in order to minimise the effects of the transition on all players, particularly Least Developed Countries (LCDs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
Mrs Botchwey said the maritime sector had great potential for economic development, however, the industry required trained personnel to ensure efficiency in its operations.
She urged the organisation to coordinate with maritime institutions in our sub-regions to determine ways of making maritime education more affordable and accessible to all.
That, she said, could lead to job opportunities in the maritime industry and potentially reduce maritime crime and piracy.
The Minister of Transport and Chairman for MOWCA, Kwaku Ofori Asiamah, said the maritime industry transcended national boundaries, therefore there was the need for regional blocs to collaborate effectively in the development of relevant strategies for the operations, extraction and utilisation of the maritime resources.
He said the mandate of regional bodies such as MOWCA was essential, and efforts should be made for its efficient operation.
“I must reiterate that no single member state can make significant strides on their own. Areas such as maritime security, maritime safety and navigation, port and infrastructure development, environmental protection, fisheries, among others, can only become effective when approached with a coordinated and integrated effort,” he said.
The Secretary-General of MOWCA, Dr Paul Adalikwu, said “water bodies such as rivers, seas and oceans have been the wombs that have birthed many world civilisation and galvanised economic development; and if the seas and the oceans around Africa are effectively mined, they could lift Africa from its present economic anaemia to lush and competitive heights, among other continents of the world.”
He explained that getting to the destination for the ultimate health of the continent’s economy depended much on the total and altruistic commitment to the organisation by member states.