By U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa Public Affairs
Adm. James G. Foggo III, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa (CNE-A) and commander, Allied Joint Force Command Naples, Italy, departed Lagos, Nigeria, following three days of engagements with senior African officials and participating in the closing ceremony of the largest maritime exercise in the Gulf of Guinea, Exercise Obangame Express 2019 (OE19), March 22.
The visit, held in conjunction with OE19, focused on enhancing military-to-military relationships between leaders and the exercise’s 33 participating countries. OE19 was the largest iteration of the exercise to date and included 2,500 personnel, 96 ships and 12 aircraft. The gradual evolution of the exercise underscores the importance of longstanding U.S.-African relationships and demonstrates cooperation on mutual security interests within the region.
“Nearly every year, the United States has worked with allies, partners, and collaborating organizations to promote the African Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership, and sponsor Exercise Obangame Express,” said Foggo during the closing ceremony. “These engagements highlight our common goal of enhancing maritime security and incrementally support and strengthen the vital institutions that enable economic growth and opportunity.”
Foggo met with senior officials from throughout Africa to include Vice Adm. Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas, Nigerian chief of naval staff, and other African heads of navies to discuss expanding security and military partnerships through exercises such as OE19.
“If you look at the estimates for 2050, there may be as many as 2.5 billion people on the African continent alone, and so it is in all of our interest to help achieve that prosperous future for everyone,” said Foggo. “This vast scale and global importance means we all have to work together to bring numerous countries, allies, coalitions and partners, and international and regional organizations together to work shoulder-to-shoulder.”
Africa consists of 54 nations, 38 of which are coastal. Ensuring the safety and security of these countries’ territorial waters is a mutual interest; working with each other and partner nations on issues such as countering illegal activities and maritime domain awareness to ensure maritime security and stability in the region is a priority.
“I am pleased to say the exercise was a huge success,” said Ibas. “As we return home to our various countries we will all build on the experience gained during this exercise.”
OE19, now in its ninth year, is one of three CNE-A facilitated regional exercises. The exercise is part of a comprehensive strategy by CNE-A and U.S. Africa Command to provide collaborative opportunities among African forces and international partners to address maritime security concerns.
“Each year, as we enhance and expand our mutual trust, these exercises have become more complicated and more sophisticated,” said Foggo. “We are creating a safer and more secure maritime environment for the economic prosperity of Africa’s coastal nations and the global community.”
This year, the Naval War College incorporated a Senior Leadership Seminar (SLS) into the exercise. The SLS reception was hosted aboard the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Thetis (WMEC 910), in Lagos. Thetis is the first U.S. Coast Guard cutter to participate in the exercise and to operate in the African theater since 2012.
“I am honored to be with such a distinguished audience – the senior leaders who are committed to fostering continued security and progress in the maritime domain,” said Foggo during the reception aboard Thetis.
As Foggo departed Lagos, the U.S. and its African partners continue to work together to improve security and stability in the region.
“This is truly the maritime century for the Gulf of Guinea,” said Foggo. “The collective success of all nations depends on our efforts in the maritime domain. Congratulations on an outstanding Exercise Obangame Express 2019.”
CNE-A continues to work with our allies and partners to support the collective progress of African coastal countries in building their security and law enforcement institutions. CNE-A, headquartered in Naples, oversees joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, to enable enduring relationships and increase vigilance and resilience in Europe and Africa.
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