African Maritime Cabotage: A Lever for Economic Independence and Development in Africa

by Pascaline ODOUBOUROU, MAREVA course, class 2022-2023


Maritime transport is the main means of transporting goods to and from African countries with a coastline. These goods, whatever their characteristics, volumes or sizes, are transported by ships belonging to large foreign shipping companies that serve African ports.

This dependence on foreign shipping companies, which have the means and the transport capacity for intra-African transport, raises a number of concerns, in particular: the autonomy and economic sovereignty of African countries, regional connectivity, high transport costs, long transport times, and so on.

In order to remedy these problems, it is imperative that an African Maritime Cabotage (AMC) system be put in place.

In the early days of navigation, cabotage was the safest way for ancient sailors to go from port to port without losing sight of the coast (

Maritime cabotage, also known as Short Sea Shipping (SSS) takes place along the coast of a continent or between islands.

According to the EU, Short Sea Shipping is defined as “the movement of cargo and passengers by sea, between ports situated in geographical Europe or between those ports and ports situated in non European countries having a coastline on the enclosed seas bordering”. Moreover, Short Sea Shipping activity includes “the domestic and international maritime transport, including feeder services along the coast, to and from the islands, rivers and lakes. The concept of short sea shipping also extends to maritime transport between the Member States of the Union and Norway and Iceland and other States on the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.” (

In Africa, however, the concept remains non-existent. In this article, the author attempts to sketch out a definition of African Maritime Cabotage (AMC) as “the carriage of goods and passengers by sea between ports located in the same African country, within an African sub-region, an African region or the African continent, not forgetting the African islands”.

Although this African Maritime Cabotage system does not yet exist, it is of crucial importance for intra-African trade and Africa’s economic growth.

Africa’s share in world trade stands at about 3% on average, while intra-African trade averages around 10 percent of Africa’s total trade. (2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy (2050 AIM Strategy®) – AU, Version 1.0, 2012)

The introduction of African Maritime Cabotage would have many advantages for the continent, including job creation, development of our maritime economy, economic independence, additional sources of revenue for governments, attractive (low) transport costs for shippers, etc.


The introduction of African Maritime Cabotage would create a large number of jobs, both in the maritime transport sector and in related activities such as shipbuilding and repair, insurance and brokerage, etc. The jobs thus created would help to reduce unemployment and strengthen the skilled labour force in Africa. The jobs thus created would help to reduce unemployment and strengthen the skilled workforce in Africa.


Setting up an African Maritime Cabotage would encourage the construction and development of African shipyards, which are virtually non-existent, and an African naval fleet.

African owned ships account for about 1.2% of world shipping by number and about 0.9% by gross tonnage. (2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy (2050 AIM Strategy®) – AU, Version 1.0, 2012)

Shipyards and ships are not the only SSS-related activities that would promote the development of our maritime economy. Their contribution to the turnover of the insurance, brokerage and transit sectors, for example, will also promote the development of our maritime economy.


By reducing dependence on foreign shipping companies, the AMC would strengthen the economic independence of African countries, enabling them to take autonomous decisions on trade and transport.


African Maritime Cabotage would generate additional revenue for governments. Taxes, customs duties, port dues, fees for port and maritime services, and other sources of revenue would contribute to public finances, strengthening the ability of states to invest in development projects.


African Maritime Cabotage would reduce transport costs for shippers, making trade more affordable and competitive. This would encourage trade and economic growth.


Maritime cabotage is considered to be environmentally friendly, as it would reduce pressure on land-based infrastructures and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, the introduction of the AMC could encourage the construction and development of African fleets with environmentally-friendly ships using environmentally-friendly propulsion technologies, such as diesel or electric propulsion.

The African Maritime Cabotage system would also facilitate connectivity between African nations, stimulate economic development and consolidate trade relations across the continent.


In conclusion, African Maritime Cabotage represents a significant opportunity for Africa. By promoting job creation, the development of the maritime economy, economic independence, revenue for governments, competitive transport costs and respect for the environment, this system is crucial to the continent’s development. The AMC would also facilitate connectivity between African nations, stimulate economic development, and consolidate trade relations across the continent. The establishment of such a system is imperative for Africa’s future and the realisation of its full economic potential.

The writer of this article Pascaline ODOUBOUROU, is one of the participants in the Advance Certificate in Maritime Business, MAREVA program.

Click on Pascaline’s photo below and find out why she applied for the Advance Certificate in Maritime Business.

We are proud of our MAREVAs.


Pascaline is enrolled in the ‘Advance Certificate in Maritime Business’, in short, ‘MAREVA’ .prand in 2022. This article reflects her knlowldge and skill after completing the Advanced Certificate course.

The World Maritime Academy’s initiative towards the direction of United Nations SDGs’ objectives, is the free, online ‘Advance Certificate in Maritime Business’, in short, ‘MAREVA’ .

Pascaline applied for the course anticipating that the program will provide her with a thorough understanding of maritime affairs, acting as a catalyst for her professional development in this field. Her primary goal was to develop a deep understanding of Short Sea Shipping, considering both its advantages and the challenges it encounters in fostering the maritime economy.

Moreover, she believed that the course will significantly contribute to expanding her knowledge base in the maritime sector, proving invaluable for creating comprehensive articles within the industry. This enhanced expertise would enable her to offer valuable insights and analysis.

Additionally, she relied on the course to strengthen her proficiency in a field that sparks her passion. The enhancement of her competencies in maritime affairs is expected to grant her greater credibility as a specialist consultant. She is firmly convinced that this course will serve as a crucial stepping stone toward achieving her ambitious goal.

In summary, there were high expectations that the course will not only provide her with profound insights into maritime affairs but also lay the foundation for her career aspirations. She aspires to become an authority in Short Sea Shipping and the broader maritime economy, expressing confidence that the knowledge and skills acquired in this course will be instrumental in realizing that ambition.

We have developed the free, online, MAREVA course for women who are interested in developing a career in shipping but they cannot because they are disadvantaged.

The course focuses on the management of the shipping industry and provides core maritime knowledge. WMA ( designed the MAREVA course to empower disadvantaged women and to contribute to shipping sustainability.

Education allows women to gain greater knowledge, skills, self-confidence and capabilities, improving their own life prospects.