Accra, Ghana, January 19– 20, 2023. The Ghana Maritime Authority hosted the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN) West-Central Africa Regional Conference to promote public-private sector dialogue on tackling corruption in seaports. The Conference was the first of its kind and brought together key delegations from Government and business stakeholders from Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Togo, Senegal, and Côte d’Ivoire. The conference focused on experience sharing between countries and training from the World Maritime University (WMU), Sweden, on best practices within the maritime regulatory environment.
The conference hosted a wide range of high-level keynote speakers and participants.
The Director General of the Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA), Mr. Thomas Alonsi, represented by the GMA Deputy Director General of Finance and Administration, Mr. Yaw A. Akosa remarked, “In the absence of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) or generally agreed upon principles, corruption as discretionary powers are abused. Therefore, there is a need for public and private stakeholders to create and apply standards for the benefit of individual countries, the subregion, and the world at large.”
In his speech, the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Mr Emmanuel Jime, emphasized the strength of a Collective Action framework, assuring participants that they can count on the political will of the NSC to do their part in collaborating towards a transparent maritime industry. He described the 2020 development and launch of the Nigerian Port Process Manual (NPPM) in response to the outcomes of a national Corruption Risk Assessment (CRA). The NPPM dictates all practices relating to vessel pre-arrival, arrival, berthing, joint boarding for rummaging, and departure. Mr Jime thanked Nigerian government collaborators for their efforts to monitor and enforce the tenets of the NPPM. Mr Jime concluded by re-emphasizing the continuous need for Collective Action and capacity building.
The Ambassador of the Kingdom of Denmark to Ghana H.E. Mr. Tom Nørring, highlighted the importance of the Blue Economy to both consumers and industries as a key driver of job creation in the region, noting that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement provides an opportunity to integrate into the Blue Economy. He firmly emphasized the need to provide transparent and predictable port calls and encouraged all participants to join “walk[ing] the anti-corruption talk.”
The Guest of Honour, His Excellency, Dr. Alhaji Mahamudu Bawumia, Vice President of the Republic of Ghana, was represented by the Minister of Public Enterprises, Honourable Mr. Joseph Cudjoe, who stated that “Corruption is a major obstacle to sustainable development in any nation since it leads to weakened institutions and creates injustice and insecurity… [It] must be discouraged and mitigated among both public and private [entities].” His Excellency Dr. Bawumia further observed that in Ghana alone, USD $8.3 million is lost to corruption each month, amounting to nearly USD $100 Million loss per year. To stem these gaps and losses, Dr. Bawumia stated, requires a solution that does not rely solely on regulation; rather, a solution must involve and be embraced by all sectors of society – public, private, and civil society.
Following the keynote addresses, two moderated panel sessions were held, in English and French on the topic “Positioning our Ports & Terminals for the Blue Economy and the AfCFTA Opportunity.”
At the closing of Day 1 the following key points stood out:
- Fighting corruption takes strong will and passion, but success has lasting effects. Corruption increases systemic inefficiency and all its associated economic and social costs. One of the lessons we have learned is that training plays a large role in reducing this inefficiency.
- Considerations must be given to what happens to economic operators who breach the law, and participants were encouraged to reflect on the use of technology, data, information sharing, vigilance, reporting, and blacklisting in the maritime sector.
- Dealing with corruption also includes stemming the insecurity that causes corruption.
- There is a need to aggregate, host, and analyse big data on a national level and build national infrastructure to support port reforms.
- The first step needed to fight corruption is to curb the latitude of public officials who use their own discretion to create offenses that do not exist/or to insist there was a contravention where there was none. This issue can be addressed through the creation, documentation, and accessible publication of authoritative Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
- It is important to shift agency mindsets to first consider their role as trade facilitators rather than meeting governmental revenue targets.
The second day of the conference was facilitated by the delegation from The World Maritime University (WMU), Dr. Max Mejia, Director of the Ph.D. Program and Associate Academic Dean, and Dr. Aref Fakhry, Associate Professor of Maritime Law and Policy. The speakers gave an overview of WMU’s history, purpose, and current course offerings. This was followed by presentations by the speakers on key topics such as standards of behavior in the maritime industry through a regulatory lens; information gathering through inspections and verification of documents and data, examining what information should be collected and reported, and taking a normative approach to ship-to-shore practices; and finally “What reforms are needed to achieve effective and efficient Ports in the context of a Blue Economy?”
These presentations were followed by an interactive group session and Q&A where participants inquired and gave guidelines on ways to refine approaches to vessel clearance at home, especially in response to the regulatory environment.
This two-day conference brought together key stakeholders from six African countries and local businesses. Each representative shared their country’s individual experiences and progress in relation to the maritime industry. The speakers and delegates discussed positioning ports & terminals for the blue economy, the AfCFTA opportunity, the effectiveness of whistleblowing to facilitate trade, and how to improve the ease of doing business. This conference has provided MACN a stepping stone in progressing projects in the participating countries to improve the business operating environment in the maritime industry.