The European Union (EU) has given the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) secretariat a grant of 5.4 million Euro (over K40 million) for the implementation of a regional programme to fight maritime piracy.
The programme is part of the 37.5 million Euro (K300 million) regional programme to protect lives, economic development and trade in the COMESA region.
Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the European Commission Gilles Hervio signed the agreement on behalf of EU while COMESA Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya signed on behalf of his organisation.
Speaking after the signing ceremony Mr. Hervio said the programme will be implemented by COMESA in cooperation with Interpol mainly to prevent money laundering by establishing sound laws, regulations and policies.
He said the programme will also contribute to building the capacity of the governments and financial institutions in the region to coordinate, exchange information, analyse, detect and truck financial flows linked to piracy and also to investigate and prosecute financial crimes.
The EU envoy stressed that over the years, combating maritime insecurity has been a priority for the union.
He added that combining political action, military operations and substantial technical and financial support to the countries in Eastern, Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean has also been the priority of the EU.
Mr. Hervio said the EU was proud to support the commitment of COMESA towards the fight against maritime piracy and the illicit flows of funds coming from piracy.
He said high risk of piracy leads to disruption of trade routes thereby creating higher transport costs, higher insurance costs and as a result, increased prices.
He further noted that maritime piracy does not respect borders, which makes regional and international action essential, adding that international crime requires international responses.
Mr. Hervio said this was why the EU, COMESA and other African organisations and countries in the region were working together.
And COMESA Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya said the successful implementation of the programme will impact the whole region because the decline in piracy would result in reduced costs of doing business.
Mr. Ngwenya said the economic impact of piracy cannot be overstated noting that a World Bank report released in 2013 estimated that maritime piracy is costing the global economy US$18 billion a year.
He said this has been through re-routing ships hence longer and more costly routes, higher insurance premiums, recruitment of private security to accompany ships, enhancement of ship security and other costs that include ransoms, deployment of naval forces and costs of prosecution among others.
He added that some countries have suffered reduced revenues from tourism and fisheries.
Mr. Ngwenya further stressed that some of the East African ports that have been the transit routes have also suffered reduced business.
He said in effect, this has translated into higher costs of transport which have subsequently resulted into increase in costs of goods that spill down to the consumer while higher costs of goods exported from the region have increased the costs of making goods from the region less competitive.