Issued by CEMO Center - Paris
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Threatened ports and economies at risk: ISIS threatens maritime trade in Africa

Tuesday 06/April/2021 - 08:05 PM
The Reference
Nahla Abdel Moneim

ISIS’s ability to extend its influence on the eastern coast of Africa represents a new threat to the commercial ports and maritime navigation in the region, which increases the suffering of both Mozambique and Tanzania and puts them in front of a new confrontation to preserve their sources of income. This ISIS incursion would deepen problems of maritime security in the region suffering from attacks by al-Qaeda on the coast of the Horn of Africa.

ISIS is expanding in East Africa, using Mozambique as a base of expansion, while it penetrates Tanzania with sporadic attacks to ignite a new terrorist conflict on the continent.

Seaports in Tanzania and Mozambique

Geographical maps are among the most important variables that are relied upon to measure the extent of the terrorist spread in one region without another, and in the case of Mozambique and Tanzania, ISIS’s influence may still be in the infancy stage and is based on the border region between the two countries, where there is underground resources such as gas and others, but this is likely to add to the existence of danger to ships wishing to cross this area, thus affecting the security of fishing fleets.

East African countries are competing for financial inputs from the seaports for their location near the Bab al-Mandab Strait and the Suez Canal in the Red Sea through which approximately 12% of global trade ships pass and whose international importance and effects on global financial markets appeared after the canal stopped for days as a result of a stuck ship before the Egyptian Suez Canal Authority was able to float the ship, return it on its course, and restore operation of the important waterway again.

It is understood from this the extent of profitability achieved by sea ports, which makes the presence of ISIS in any region a dangerous matter for economies, and this weakness appeared in the organization's control at the end of March over the city of Palma in northern Mozambique and a continuation of a series of attacks on the country since the ISIS branch was announced in June 2018.

ISIS is taking advantage of this branch to attack police stations in Tanzania. On October 24, 2020, the authorities announced that about 300 armed men attacked a police station in an area near the southern border with Mozambique. Given the numbers that attacked the police station, it is clear that there is a defect in border security monitoring, because the entry of hundreds of people into an offensive lineup is likely to reveal more opportunities.

Threatening investments of port economy

There are ports in Tanzania for maritime trade that constitute an important source of national income for the country, the most important of which is the port of Dar es Salaam, which the government sought to develop and expand to ensure greater profits. In 2014, the country signed an agreement with the Chinese Holding Company to construct a new port and a railway network with investments amounting to $10 billion.

The port of Dar es Salaam is the largest port in the country between two other major ports, and 90% of the total cargo operations in the country passes through it. The other two ports are Tanga and Mtwara, in addition to other marine sites in the country that are not efficiently exploited due to the weak capabilities of the state, but they remain of economic value.

The port of Beira in Mozambique has a berth length of 2,000 meters, and it has about 11 berths used for shipping, while the port of Maputo, which is located in the south of the country, may be relatively far from the scene of terrorist operations, which are focused in the north.

The potential threats to seaports and trade traffic in Mozambique and Tanzania may also apply to the rest of the ports of neighboring countries in the eastern African coast, but to varying degrees, according to the proximity of the terrorist organization’s centers and its strategic objectives. ISIS is also likely to be affected by competition with al-Qaeda, which threatens the security of Somalia and the sea in the Horn of Africa.