African leaders on Saturday signed a landmark charter that aims to preserve the continent's maritime security and safety.
The Charter on Maritime Security and Safety and Development in Africa was signed on the last day of the six-day African Union(AU) Extraordinary Summit on Maritime Security, Safety and Development.
Among other things, the Charter aims to prevent national and transnational crimes, including terrorism, piracy, armed robbery, drug trafficking, human trafficking, and illegal and unregulated fishing.
"Our common desire to have such valuable legal instrument should also translate into our determination to make it applicable and operational through its ratification," said AU chairman Idriss Deby, also Chad's president.
AU Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, however, said that the Charter "has shortcomings."
In a side event on Friday, she said "The Charter mainly focuses on safety and security issues, not development."
She called on delegates to continue to make suggestions and help AU draw up an annexure to the Charter in the future, which responds to the development side of the maritime space.
Of the 54 AU member states, 38 are coastal or island states. Over 90 percent of Africa's exports and imports are transported through the seas, oceans and waterways.