The Ambassador of the Republic of Togo was one of the guest speakers at a University of Portsmouth conference this week to tackle piracy and maritime security issues.
His Excellency Ambassador Dr Yackoley Kokou Johnson was there to address security challenges in and around the Gulf of Guinea at the conference hosted by the Centre for European and International Studies.
Delegates discussed sea-security challenges such as piracy and other criminal activities that remain obstacles to the future prosperity of millions of people in the West Africa region.
Dr Johnson said it’s important to engage with the issue of maritime security because African sea space plays an essential role in the economy of the continent. Out of the 54 countries, 39 have shoreline. Pirates have robbed nearly 100 million dollars since 2010.
He said: “My passion for maritime security developed from drafting UN resolution 2039 on West African piracy. Through this research I became more interested because Togo was getting the highest number of attacks.
“African oceans have become rife with human trafficking, weapons, drugs and arms trades so I’m pleased to be here at this conference where the main objective is to bring African states together in a more holistic way to look at the maritime sector and security.”
Professor Tony Chafer, Director of the Centre for European and International Studies Research, welcomed guests to the inaugural conference organised as part of the West Africa Peace and Security Network.
He said: “West Africa is a growing concern for the international community because there are a range of security issues that affect the region such as crime, terrorism, migration and piracy.
“It’s so important to bring together academics and practitioners to share their knowledge and expertise on peace and security issues and come up with policy recommendations.”
Rear Admiral Nick Lambert chaired the conference and spoke about the importance of exploring and understanding the marine environment.
He said: “We ought to call ourselves planet ocean rather than planet earth as the ocean is where the bulk of our resources lie. Ninety per cent of world trade goes by sea yet we know very little about this environment.
“The sheer scale of sea spaces means huge unknowns. There is a reason we haven’t found flight MH370, which we’ll only find now with massive investment or luck.”
He also talked about how important maritime security is for growth in the ‘blue’ economy – a long-term strategy to support sustainable growth in the marine and maritime sectors.
“We need to bring security and governance to complex sea spaces because we want an effective blue economy. Governing sea spaces can improve a region’s economic opportunities, ” he said.
The other guest speakers were Dr Christian Bueger, reader in international relations from the University of Cardiff, Peter Cook, CEO and co-founder of the Security Association for the Maritime Industry, and Dr Karen Sumser-Lupson, commissioner for the African Maritime Safety and Security Agency.
The Centre for European and International Studies is the largest interdisciplinary research centre in UK Higher Education.