America's military faces reductions in force and spending that could have a ripple effect. Proceedings asked the leaders of the world's sea services: Some see U.S. global naval engagement diminishing and the world's power structure realigning itself over the coming decade. In what ways would this affect your navy?
The involvement of the United States in the waters surrounding the African continent is broad and includes the full gamut of maritime security issues, from peacekeeping to the broader aspects of human security such as maritime policing (antipiracy), support to navigation, support to civil authorities, humanitarian aid, maritime domain awareness, and disaster relief.
The African maritime space itself presents a number of complex challenges. The area is vast, and much of the continent is dependent upon its sea routes for trade and commerce. Furthermore, the continent itself has endured a long period of colonization and underdevelopment, and as such, its recent focus has largely been on resolution of internal, land-based conflicts, the establishment of governance, and combating corruption and instability. Thus, a maritime focus has been largely lacking. Naval/maritime constabulary forces at best may be described as nascent; in some instances they are almost nonexistent. As such, the assistance of foreign states has provided a consistent degree of stabilization. The diminishing of such naval engagement would have a significant effect.
The geography of the continent presents a significant challenge in terms of maritime patrol requirements. The capacity to address both coastal and “deep-water” patrols is limited. Furthermore, maritime resources are not evenly distributed. While the northern (Mediterranean) states have a number of assets, south of the Sahara both the number and readiness of maritime assets are significantly constrained.
Given the nascent maritime capability in respective regions, the South African Navy, as would be expected, has an important role in ensuring regional maritime security, specifically within the Southern African Development Community. A standing maritime committee, a subsidiary of its interstate defense and security committee, has been an instrumental mechanism in coordinating associated activities in that regard. Key cooperative agreements have been forged in areas such as policy, training, hydrography, search and rescue, maritime domain awareness, interoperability, and capacity-building.
Irrespective of the degree of naval engagement on the part of the United States, it is important that all maritime security efforts, whether on the part of continental or noncontinental players, take place with due regard for context. As such they should be relevant to the asymmetries of the social and economic matrix of the continent, as well as the associated asymmetries in the maritime-asset domain.
Furthermore, such participation needs to be, as far as possible, carried out within the context of existing regional and continental structures such as the African Union, which in turn must be fully empowered in the articulation and execution of any program of action, with the requisite consultative mechanisms established.