East Africa Has Yet to Tap its Full Maritime Potential

Africa isn’t a player in global maritime trade, despite 90% of its imports and exports being seaborne. But with five coastal countries in IGAD, a Regional Maritime Council could boost economic growth, trade integration and livelihoods.

Posted on 11/13/20
By Ahmed Hersi and Roba D Sharamo | Via ISS Today
A view from the Port of Doraleh, Djibouti. (UN Photo/Evan Schneider, CC license)

By not managing and using shared maritime resources, East African states are missing an opportunity to build their economies, create jobs and new industries, and nourish a growing population.

Coastal countries account for five of the eight members of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). They have untapped opportunities in the Indian Ocean, Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, three resource-rich and geostrategic waterways which transport billions of dollars of oil, gas and goods.

The region has a population of around 250 million people and a coastline stretching 6 690 km across Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia and Kenya; but its marine potential is inhibited by a lack of coordination.

Africa is not yet a player in global maritime trade, despite 90% of the continent’s imports and exports being seaborne. African countries own just 1% of global shipping fleets. Among challenges identified by the Shippers Council of East Africa are weak port, railway and road infrastructure, congested harbours, high logistical costs, theft of cargo and arbitrary fees.

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