Yaounde Code of Conduct Informational Brief

Gauging Maritime Security in West and Central Africa

Release Date: August 24, 2020
Kelly Moss, Maisie Pigeon, Asabea Amaniampong
Publication Type: Policy Brief


The Yaoundé Architecture is a critical piece of the maritime security picture in West and Central Africa, resulting from the regionally-led Code of Conduct Concerning the Repressing of Piracy, Armed Robbery against Ships, and illicit Maritime Activity in West and Central Africa, also known as the Yaoundé Code of Conduct. The Yaoundé Code of Conduct, developed and originally signed by West and Central African nations in 2013, laid out a maritime security framework prioritizing cooperation and information-sharing across the region. The intent of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct is to assist the region in addressing an array of maritime crimes affecting the region, including piracy and armed robbery at sea, illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, maritime terrorism, trafficking in narcotics and wildlife products, and maritime pollution. 

To enable the implementation of the Yaoundé Code, two regional information-sharing centers were developed: The Regional Centre for Maritime Security in Central Africa (CRESMAC) based in Pointe-Noire, Republic of the Congo, which assists the countries of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) as well as The Regional Coordination Centre for Maritime Security in West Africa (CRESMAO), based in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, which serves the countries of the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS.) Coordinating both information-sharing centers is the Interregional Coordination Centre in Yaoundé, Cameroon. 

The signatory states of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct represent a diverse bloc of states, despite their close geographic proximity: some states have thriving coastal economies thanks to a wealth of natural resources, while others remain underdeveloped. One of the strongest navies on the continent calls the Gulf of Guinea region home, while other governments have had to think creatively about how to enhance security in maritime domains. 

This report serves as a tool for signatories of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct to track their progress against nine measures of maritime security and governance.

Key Findings

  • The Yaoundé Code of Conduct, and subsequent Yaoundé Architecture, has provided a useful framework for signatories of the Yaoundé Code to coordinate on the issue of maritime security; but maximum effectiveness has yet to be approved as several zones are not yet operational, providing critical opportunities by illicit maritime actors to exploit the maritime space.
  • While the region has exceptional opportunity to develop blue economy sectors, including in fisheries, tourism, offshore oil and gas, and maritime transportation, the potential of these industries has yet to be realized and many regional economies could benefit from diversifying beyond oil and gas to some of the aforementioned sectors. 
  • Rule of Law is a critical piece of securing the maritime space: corruption, poor judicial integrity, and political exclusion inhibit policy effectiveness in the maritime space. Weak or underdeveloped judiciary and legislative branches plague several countries in the region; however, with very few exceptions, countries in the region have some of the lowest rates of exclusion based on gender, religion, region, ethnicity, and socioeconomic standing on the continent.