Warships for Africa


BERLIN/PRETORIA (own report) - German military circles are pleading for the systematic rearming of African navies to protect German-European interests. "Threats and risks in African waters are having a growing affect on Europe," writes the journal MarineForum, published by the German Naval Institute (DMI). Maritime piracy, smuggling and oil piracy are increasing along the African coast and this will have to change. The journal is referring to a strategy paper published jointly by the Chiefs of European Navies. They are demanding that African countries enhance their naval capabilities, so that in the future they would be capable of independently handling the above named threats. A while ago, South Africa, for example, had already begun to rearm its navy and fight piracy in neighboring waters, thereby providing relief for European trade. However, it is also pumping money that could otherwise be used for combating poverty into the coffers of German companies, to purchase warships from the German arms industry. The Chiefs of European Navies affirm the readiness to support systematically this development in Africa.


The strategy paper, mentioned in the current issue of MarineForum, was written last year by the "Chiefs of European Navies" (CHENS). Since their first meeting in 1990, the CHENS had been convening annual forums. CHENS currently is comprised of 24 European member navies from EU and NATO countries. The US Navy has observer status. CHENS occasionally publishes strategy papers on concepts of maritime operations or the navy's future, including the above mentioned strategy paper "Maritime Capacity Building in Africa".[1]

Maritime Piracy, Smuggling, Oil Piracy

According to the strategy paper, several risks and threats are plaguing African coastal waters. They not only include illegal fishing, because many African countries do not have the capacity for controlling their territorial waters, but also widespread piracy, not only at the Horn of Africa but also in the Gulf of Guinea or along the southern African coast. Smuggle to Europe is again in full bloom, not only traffic in humans, but also arms and drugs traffic, using also the uncontrolled waters along the West African coast. The widespread oil piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, one of Africa's main oil producing regions, is causing considerable economic damage. About 25% of the oil produced is regularly being lost. In the past 5 years alone, the oil industry has lost about US $100 billion through oil piracy. These problems are "increasingly affecting Europe", writes the MarineForum following CHENS deliberations of how to find a remedy.[2]

Sea Power for Africa

The CHENS' concept calls for engaging the African countries, themselves, in the struggle against these problems. Quoting the CHENS strategy paper, the MarineForum writes that "a certain measure of security" has now been established at the Horn of Africa - "by the counter-piracy operations with naval vessels and aviation from all over the world". That is not sufficient: "A comprehensive solution requires (...) that the regional bordering countries develop their own maritime capacities."[3] First signs in this direction are already beginning to surface in Africa. In 2006, a symposium was hosted in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, on "Sea Power for Africa," in which the "necessity" of developing a multination naval cooperation was recognized. In 2009, a group of East African and Arab states reached an agreement on the "Djibouti Code of Conduct" to intensify their common offensive against piracy. Moreover, just recently, the South African navy began intervening against pirates off the coast of Mozambique. More than 90 percent of South Africa's foreign trade goes over maritime routes, and some of its bordering countries are using South Africa's harbors to land their imports and ship their exports. Therefore, according to the reports, Pretoria has its own vested interests in the security of its coastal waters.[4] And Europe is benefiting.


Not least of all, because South Africa is using warships produced in Northern Germany to fight the piracy. The four Valour Class frigates of the South African Navy were produced by the German Blohm + Voss and HDW dockyards, whose foreign exports have always been a major source of revenue. Algeria has recently ordered two of the same model frigates from Germany. The German producer receives around 150 million Euros for each ship, which can be used for the African naval cooperation. The enhancement of Africa's naval capacities becomes therefore a lucrative business for German producers of naval war material, which can make large dents in African state budgets. If those sums would be used to fight poverty instead of paying German companies, they could help to eradicate the social causes for maritime and oil piracy.


To be assured that the African coastal nations will seriously use their buildup of naval capacities to fight maritime piracy, smuggling and oil piracy, the CHENS is proposing they cooperate with European structures. MarineForum quotes CHENS as saying that "as a group of high-ranking European flag officers with many years of naval experience," they would certainly be "interested" in cooperating with African organizations to "place the development of naval expertise at their disposal." The journal agrees with the argument that Europe needs a consolidated approach to "be able to achieve an efficient enhancement of the African naval capabilities."[5] "The partnership basis of cooperation between Europe and Africa" is an "essential element". This would insure that in Africa, European interests will always have priority and that European trade, European oil production and European exports of warships would continue to boom unhampered, The bill will be carried by the nations of the African continent, a large number of which are suffering deep poverty. With these efforts, they will continue to make their contribution to the redistribution of the global wealth to the European metropolis.

[1] Adding value to Maritime Capacity Building in Africa - A CHENS approach; www.chens.eu 13.08.2010
[2], [3] Maritime Capacity Building in Africa; MarineForum 4/2011
[4] The South African Navy Facing up to Reality; ISSAfrica 17.02.2011
[5] Maritime Capacity Building in Africa; MarineForum 4/2011