By Fidel Amakye Owusu

1. Like space and some few areas of the earth and its atmosphere, the high seas have been treated as places of common use not restricted by individual states.

2. What is sometimes called “the Constitution of the Oceans” was established in 1994 to regulate jurisdiction of the seas, claim of resources and rights of navigation. This consolidated many treaties and conventions made over the centuries.

3. This notwithstanding, no agreement had been reached on a treaty that protected the high seas—areas beyond the ordinary jurisdiction of states. About a decade after efforts were made toward reaching such a deal, one was reached yesterday—good.

4. What does this mean for Africa?

5. More than two-thirds of the 54 sovereign states of Africa are coastal states. Of the 38 littoral states, 6 are Island states.

6. Africa has two main Oceans and several seas. The entire west is watered by the Atlantic while the Indian Ocean borders the east. The two meet at Cape Agulhas in the south. The Mediterranean Sea is in the north, and the Red Sea in the north-east.

7. This access makes many people in the continent depend on the oceans for their economic life. While states have control over the immediate waters and Exclusive Economic Zones of the seas, the health of their waters is linked to the contiguous ocean that forms the high seas. This makes the deal essential to Africa.

8. The protection of ocean life against activities that destroy it, would further ensure a replenished ocean that has the potential to help feed the growing population of Africa—the fastest growing in world.

9. Also, the continent has nice beaches and reefs that have become foreign exchange earning assets over the years. From the Red Sea resorts in Egypt and Sudan, through Pemba, Zanzibar, Seychelles Comoros and Mauritius in the Indian Ocean to Namibia, Sao Tome and Principe and Cape Verde, the seas have brought in revenue.

10. The Mediterranean coast of Africa is no exception. Protecting the oceans will therefore help keep this industry in long term.

11. Furthermore, with Africa having the potential to discover more resources in the high seas adjacent to its territorial waters, the new deal will help provide legal framework within which this could be done while protecting the ecosystem.

12. This will not only help protect adjacent coastal areas against pollution, it could also make multinationals more responsible in their exploitation of resources.

13. The new deal could further urge African states to enact laws against domestic activities that affect the seas. Example is plastic waste management.

14. Many more…

By Fidel Amakye Owusu – International Relations and Security Analyst and Writer

Article Reproduced with Permission from Fidel Amakye Owusu

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