Commander of U.S. Africa Command Gen. Carter F. Ham, USA, testified to the House Armed Services Committee on April 5, 2011, that “U.S. Africa Command assists in developing the capacity of individual West African states and encourages regional security cooperation.”
Ham noted the regional cooperation by Gulf of Guinea states to improve maritime security. “Nigeria, by virtue of its location, population, significant gross domestic product, and oil reserves is a major power in the region, and one of the continent‘s most politically and economically significant states. Nigeria provides regional leadership through the Gulf of Guinea Commission and Economic Community of West Africa States. Nigeria, along with Ghana and Senegal, are emerging in West Africa as critical partners essential to our efforts to enhance stability and security in this important region.”
“Africa‘s long-term growth, stability, and economic prosperity is largely dependent on our partners‘ ability to develop capable and professional militaries that are subordinate to civilian authority, respect human rights, and adhere to the rule of law,” Ham said. “There are no short cuts to growth and stability in Africa; we must shape our efforts with an understanding of the continent and patiently sustain our efforts over time.”
Ham said a prosperous and stable Africa is strategically important to the United States. “An Africa that can generate and sustain broad-based development will contribute to global economic growth and vitality – a long-standing American interest. Prosperity and stability in Africa will ensure that it does not become a haven for those who wish to do harm to our citizens and our interests – both in the homeland and abroad.”
Resources and vulnerabilities
A U.S. National Intelligence Council report, Global Trends 2015: A Dialogue About the Future With Nongovernment Experts, states that, “West Africa will play an increasing role in global energy markets, providing 25 percent of North American oil imports in 2015.” The report also notes the Gulf of Guinea has larger offshore oil reserves than the Persian Gulf.
“There is growing awareness that the vast resources and potential in the Gulf of Guinea are being undermined by multifaceted domestic, regional and international threats and vulnerabilities,” writes Raymond Gilpin in “Enhancing Maritime Security in the Gulf of Guinea,” published by the U.S. Naval Postgradutate School. “Rather than contributing to stability and economic prosperity for countries in this sub-region, pervasive insecurity in this resource-laden maritime environment has resulted in more than $2 billion in annual financial losses, significantly constrained investment and economic prospects, growing crime and potentially adverse political consequences. Historically, the concept of security has had two broad characteristics in many African countries. First, security has been associated with the perpetuation of a regime and not necessarily the welfare of a country and its inhabitants. Secondly, the focus has been primarily land-centric, because regime security has seldom had a maritime dimension. Consequently, maritime security arrangements in the Gulf of Guinea are under-resourced and have received scant policy attention.”
Gilpen says a number of recent national and regional initiatives suggest a paradigm shift, as African countries, commercial entities, non-governmental organizations, and other stakeholders increasingly recognize the wide-ranging benefits of enhanced maritime security.
Capt. Edward Lundquist, USN (Ret.) was the co-chair of the 2011 IQPC OPV Asia Pacific Conference.