Rule of Law
Progress requires effective and legitimate legal institutions
Rule of law is crucial for translating maritime security measures from paper to practice. Good governance of the maritime space requires bureaucratic and legal structures that are capable of developing, implementing, and enforcing policy. Where these structures are undermined by corruption, ineffectiveness, inefficiency, and inconsistent application of the law, legislative approaches to maritime security cannot be enforced and legal measures have little impact.
Countries with high scores for rule of law also had high scores for coastal welfare and fisheries as well as relatively low levels of migration and human trafficking at sea. These correlations demonstrate the threat that corruption can pose to healthy fisheries management and participation in the legal coastal economy.
How dishonesty and bribery undermine legal efforts
Corruption remains the greatest threat to effective policy implementation in sub-Saharan Africa. It is especially threatening in the maritime domain due to weak state presence, proximity to international borders, and the great concentration of wealth that occurs at important seaports.
In corrupt coastal and maritime environments local officials take bribes, profit from selective enforcement of fisheries and environmental regulations, and permit black market trading and trafficking.These activities undermine the licit economy and prevent the effective development of the blue economy. The good news, however, is that many sub-Saharan countries have made significant progress against corruption over the last five years.
These countries are African members of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative
Nigeria: Overcoming Corruption in the Oil Industry (H3)
Nigeria, the region’s largest oil producer, was also the first sub-Saharan state to embrace the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) framework. Member states subject themselves to periodic reviews of their extractive industry management and are then held accountable for making progress toward any areas of concern. Following the January 2017 review, Fredrik Reinfeldt, Chair of the EITI Board, said of Nigeria:
“Nigeria has repeatedly demonstrated how the EITI process can be used to achieve important, tangible results for its citizens. Swiftly addressing the corrective actions identified through Validation should help Nigeria continue to demonstrate regional leadership and make a full transition to the EITI standard.”Fredrik Reinfeldt, Chair of the EITI Board
EITI’s review of 34 aspects of good extractives governance found inadequate progress in only one area (policy on contract disclosure), but found that Nigeria made meaningful or satisfactory strides in areas like public debate, distribution of revenues, and civil society engagement. With further work within this framework, Nigeria will build stronger institutions and deepen norms of good, corruption-free governance.
Approximately half of coastal sub-Saharan states are now participating in the EITI process. Two oil-rich states that have seen the worst trends in corruption, Angola and Equatorial Guinea, are not among them.
Bribes and Bureaucracy
How excessive bureaucracy brings bribe-seeking
To effectively fight corruption and curtail bribe-seeking, states can review their bureaucracies and eliminate points where these activities are most likely to occur. Seaports should be a focal point in this search. Because more than 90% of sub-Saharan Africa’s international trade flows through its seaports, port administrators are uniquely positioned to demand bribes, permit illicit economic activity, and undermine good governance. A recent report by The Economist went as far as to call this behavior “onshore piracy.”1
Source: United Nations Economic Commission for Africa
When the rule of law is weak, administrative gatekeepers can demand bribes before goods can continue to their next destination. The World Bank estimates that the resulting transit delays cost African economies billions of dollars each year, so it is no surprise that recent anti-graft efforts in Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, and elsewhere have resulted in high-profile removals of customs officials and port directors.2
Each year, the World Bank measures these bureaucratic inefficiencies with a “Trading Across Borders” score. Countries receiving high scores move goods through their ports efficiently, limiting opportunities for bribe-seeking. Lower scores mark countries where inefficiencies and “red tape” increase opportunities for port corruption. These data are presented on the adjacent map.
Solving this problem will require compliance from both African and non-African actors, as most of this kind of rent-seeking occurs as a transaction between an African recipient and non-African firm. Cooperation from the many multinational corporations doing business in African seaports will be especially important. A 2016 report 3 from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa found more than 99% of known cases of cross-border corruption in the region since 1994 involved non-African firms. These cases included simple bribery of port and customs authorities as well as more elaborate illicit financial schemes involving kickbacks, insurance fraud, money laundering, and selective enforcement of trade regulations.
The cross-border corruption occurring in African seaports has detrimental spillover effects for other sectors. Preferential treatment of foreign firms, norms of rent-seeking, and corrupt officials can negatively influence the regulatory environment for domestic businesses that are far removed from international trade.
2 Sandra Sequeria, “Investigating and Tackling Corruption in African Ports,” Research Impact: Making a Difference (The London School of Economics and Political Science, 2015).
3 UN Economics Commission for Africa, “Measuring Corruption in Africa: The International Dimension Matters,” African Governance Report IV (2016).
Linking marginalization to maritime insecurity
Equal treatment under the law, regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religion, subnational region, or gender, is the basis of inclusive governance. Inclusive governance is important in coastal areas because marginalized groups are less likely to possess the resources and property rights needed to make a living wage through legal economic activities. In this way, exclusion can depress coastal economies and compel some to turn toward maritime crime and illicit economy activity.
Levels of inclusion vary greatly along the sub-Saharan coastline, though many states have made notable progress in this area. In Somalia, for example, Somalia women’s economic empowerment is being expanded through a number of fisheries projects by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). These projects include training women boat-builders and adding value to post-harvest fish catches. One community organizer working with the project notes:
“It is important to have women involved in these activities since their contributions have a big influence on ensuring stronger household level financial management and food security that will directly benefit their families.”
Programs like this, when coupled with equal property and business rights for women, can greatly expand licit opportunities in coastal economies. These opportunities are a strong defense against illicit economic activities.
Our inclusion data, presented on the adjacent map, also account for inclusion across religion, class, ethnicity, and region. Exclusion based on any of these factors can threaten political stability and economic development in coastal areas.
Exploiting Weak Governance
Weak local control undermines regional stability
Even where countries invest heavily in good port management and port security, maritime governance can be undermined by a weak state presence in remote coastal areas. Any coastal location with a weak state presence can be exploited, and this means countries in this region must maintain adequate law enforcement capabilities and maritime domain awareness across the entirety of their maritime spaces.
Unfortunately, the same geographic characteristics that undermine effective law enforcement also provide safe sanctuaries for traffickers, pirates, and insurgents operating in maritime spaces. Small, portable, high-value goods, including cocaine and heroin, are most likely to be smuggled in these areas. These problems are especially evident in offshore island groups, such as Guinea-Bissau’s Bijagos archipelago or the Lamu region of Kenya.
Packets of seized cocaine at a police station in Guinea-Bissau. Photo: Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images
When states eliminate these “blind spots,” they gain the ability to enforce good policy and exert local control. Legislation can more directly translate into action and states can become much more likely to successfully curb illicit maritime activities. Because criminal networks based in under-governed locales travel great distances to smuggle or pirate, eliminating local areas with weak governance can significantly improve maritime security over very large regions.
“The greatest fragility we have is the islands, many of them uninhabited, but still the drug traffickers use them as a depot and then transport [the drug] to the continent. On the other hand, even in those that are inhabited the presence of the state is weak, or in some cases nonexistent."Mamadu Djalo Pires, 2009, translated
Minister of Justice, Guinea-Bissau