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Sailing on Sea



Background and Rationale

It is clear that maritime security debates over the past few decades have centered on the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) – a region considered the most dangerous for seafarers – and the unique conundrum it presents to maritime security cooperation. The Gulf of Guinea is crucial, not only because it is geographically cardinal to maritime trade but also because its strategic significance is largely interwoven with the interests of a large number of actors. 

The implications of this are as extensive and multifaceted. For instance, while it does imply a multiplicity of interests in enhancing the region’s maritime security, it equally infers the exposure of the region to a more complex set of maritime security threats, as well as a more complex set of responses to these threats. The Gulf is therefore characterised by an intricate nexus of threats and governance challenges that have resulted in varied responses from different levels of actors. 

From the composite Yaoundé Architecture to the multi-actor G7++ Friends of the Gulf of Guinea, these interventions have emerged in response to the peculiar nature of maritime security challenges faced by the region and are likely to evolve as the dynamics of those challenges change over time. The implications of this proliferation of interventions are two-fold. First, it deepens the need for partnerships and collaborations across a broad range of stakeholders. Second, it heightens elements of informality and experimentation in governance approaches towards attaining shared goals within the region. 

Whether such an evolution will be beneficial to advancing the multiplex of interests in the region, however, is dependent on a contextual analysis of how their discourses and practices have shaped the maritime security architecture of the region and how various actors deal with the complexities of the region’s maritime security environment. It is also dependent on a credible assessment of how efforts in the region aimed at addressing maritime security concerns can be more effectively coordinated and harnessed towards the attainment of shared interests. A study that incorporates these dynamics could create a much clearer understanding of the suitability of existing frameworks for enhancing maritime security in the region.

Areas of Exploration

This study seeks to contribute to the limited research on the complexity of maritime security interventions in the Gulf of Guinea, with the ultimate intent of illuminating viable pathways for harmonising collective efforts towards enhancing shared goals. The research questions are categorised under three thematic areas as indicated below:

Existing maritime security initiatives/frameworks in the region:

What are the range of existing maritime security initiatives in the region and what is their disposition, especially in terms of threat focus? How successful or otherwise have these interventions been in curbing incidents of maritime crime in the region?

Evolution of maritime security initiatives/ frameworks in the region:

What are the primary reasons for varying maritime security initiatives in the Gulf of Guinea? What has been the evolutionary trajectory of the range of initiatives in the region? How did complexities evolve over time? How have the discourses and practices of actors shaped approaches to maritime security in the region over time?

Actor relations and responses

What are the power relationships imbued within the cluster of interventions in the region? How are the resulting complexities navigated by state and non-state actors with varying interests in the region? How have the discourse and practices of various actors shaped the maritime security architecture of the region? Are there existing mechanisms to reduce complexities or facilitate coordination amongst existing initiatives, interventions or frameworks? What are the prospects for harmonising the convoluted mix of efforts in the region towards the ultimate end of enhancing maritime security?

Phases of the Audit

The fundamental aim of this study is to map the range of maritime security initiatives and interventions in the Gulf of Guinea, assess the complexities these have posed to maritime security governance, examine the responses of actors to these complexities and determine whether or not efforts have been successful and can be ultimately harmonised towards enhancing the region’s maritime security. To achieve this, the audit will be conducted along four different phases, depicted in the figure below.


Figure 1: Phases of the Audit

Major Outputs

The Audit has been structured by the Institute to result in a number of notable outputs, each of which will result in substantial contributions to advancing maritime security governance in the Gulf of Guinea and beyond. These are enumerated below:

  1. Brief Analytical Papers of Major Interventions

Prior to publication of the detailed study report, brief analytical papers on selected maritime security interventions will be disseminated by the Institute as separate publications. Each paper will provide a brief historical backdrop to the intervention in question, explore its scope, examine whether or not the intervention is achieving its primary objectives and investigate practicable pathways to strengthening the ability of these interventions to attain their ultimate goals.

   2. Policy Briefs

Useful policy actions intended to be included in the detailed report will be shared as quarterly policy briefs for the duration of the Audit. The quarterly briefs will provide direct policy recommendations for addressing gaps within the region’s maritime security architecture.

  3. Detailed Report

The primary output of the study will be a detailed report of findings, conclusions and recommendations titled The Gulf Complex: An Audit of the Range of Maritime Security Interventions in the Gulf of Guinea. The structured report will serve as a useful reference document for all stakeholders interested in gaining a complete picture of the full range of maritime security interventions in the Gulf of Guinea. Corroborated by infographics and diagrammatic representations, the report will provide a clear picture of cross-linkages between interventions in the region, as well as an analysis of the successes and failures chalked by these interventions.

  4. Dissemination Workshop

Following the publication of the detailed report, the Institute will conduct a regional workshop to disseminate the findings of the study across a broad range of stakeholders in the region. The workshop will particularly be aimed at enhancing high-level dialogue between policy makers across the region and key actors playing a role in the execution of the myriad of initiatives in the Gulf of Guinea, on pathways to coordinating efforts towards shared regional interests and objectives.

   5. Journal Edition: The Gulf Spectrum

The Institute began processes towards publication of the first edition of the Gulf Spectrum, a flagship journal intended to provide stakeholders across the Gulf of Guinea and beyond with unique, local perspectives on critical issues surrounding maritime governance, safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea. The first edition of the journal will be published under  the theme, Maritime Security Interventions in the Gulf of Guinea and will provide a pathway to collating research and regional voices on the MSIA along three thematic areas:

  • Evolution of maritime security initiatives in the Gulf of Guinea

  • The range of existing initiatives in the region

  • Actor relations and responses

The Call for Papers was publicised in the month of September. Afterwards, the Institute, along with the Editorial constituted for the journal, selected eleven abstracts and informed the authors accordingly. The Atlantic Centre has indicated its commitment to provide editorial support for the first edition of the Gulf Spectrum and to contribute towards the organisation of the planned MSIA Conference, where authors will be given the opportunity to present their papers.

Audit Outcomes & Impacts

The Audit is a crucial first step to demystifying complexities resulting from the convoluted mix of maritime security interventions in the Gulf of Guinea. It is intended to yield an array of short-term outcomes and long-term impacts, as illustrated below.


Figure 2: Outcomes & Impacts


The research is expected to be conducted using a mix of methods, ranging from open and explorative qualitative and
quantitative approaches, through desktop reviews, interviews, focus-group discussions and stakeholder surveys. Each of these approaches will be segmented according to the various phases of the research as per the figure below.

Fig 3.png

Figure 3: Data Sources

Data gathered from each of these sources will undergo rigorous analysis and verification processes such as cross referencing, before being included in the final report. Again, all stakeholders approached for expert interviews, focus group discussions or to participate in stakeholder surveys with be notable actors, stakeholders or implementers within requisite maritime security interventions across the region to ensure that feedback is both credible and relevant. The report will include relevant charts, figures and infographics necessary to adequately convey information gathered.

Some of the documents to be reviewed are listed below in the execution of the Audit are listed below:

Fig 4.png

Figure 4: Inexhaustive List of Documentary Sources

Research Report: Great Power Competition in the Atlantic

GoGMI was confirmed as a key partner with the Atlantic Centre in co-authoring a report on great power competition in the Atlantic. The report aims to address the consequences of non-Atlantic powers present in the Atlantic as its core object of study, in order to best depict the current predicaments the region faces in the short and middle run.

GoGMI’s chapter in the report highlights the nature of great power competition within the context of the Gulf of Guinea, as well as how such competition ultimately influences maritime security outcomes in the region.

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