This piece was written in October 2011. It first appeared in the Journal of International Peace Operations (JIPO) volume 7, number 4. You can find it here.
The sharp rise in piracy in West Africa, particularly in the Gulf of Guinea, has featured prominently in recent news. Piracy as a whole is costing global trade an estimated $12 billion (USD) a year, with the primary target being the oil industry – a key sector of the West African economy – which threatens the strategic interests of the United States, EU, and China.
There are other issues, along with piracy, that are prevalent in the Gulf of Guinea. Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in the waters of West Africa has been referred to as the ‘worst in the world’, with London-based MRAG Limited estimating illegal catches to be 40% higher than reported legal catches. The smuggling of people, arms, and narcotics is also a significant issue in the West African maritime domain. On top of these issues, a plethora of local and transnational criminal and terrorist organisations are connected either directly or tangentially to piracy in West Africa. Chief amongst them are Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Hamas, Hezbollah, Boko Haram, and the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND).