Obangame Express (OE21), the largest multinational maritime exercise in Western Africa, kicked off its tenth year with 32 participating nations at an opening ceremony in Accra, Ghana, March 19, 2021.
Sponsored by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), OE21 is designed to improve regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness, information-sharing practices, and tactical interdiction expertise to enhance the collective capabilities of participating nations to counter sea-based illicit activity.
“Obangame Express allows us to develop skills, with our regional partners, that will have a lasting impact on regional security in the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean,” said Rear Adm. Michael Baze, Director of Maritime Headquarters, U.S. Naval Forces Africa. “Our past exercises led to tangible, real-world success stories, and OE21 is a chance for us to build upon those successes.”
AFRICOM assists African partner nations’ efforts to protect the maritime economy in order to ensure continued, sustainable use of maritime resources and enable maritime trade.
“The Ghana Navy is once again honoured to host Obangame Express, the multinational exercise that seeks to build the capacity of the Navies in the Gulf of Guinea Region,” said Ghana’s Chief of the Naval Staff, Rear Adm. Issah Yakubu. “Our focus will therefore be to ensure the enhancement of interoperability, information sharing, and implementation of laid down inter-agency procedures towards ensuring maritime security by all stakeholders.”
OE21, one of three U.S. Naval Forces Africa-facilitated regional exercises, is part of a comprehensive strategy by NAVAF-SIXTHFLT and AFRICOM to provide collaborative opportunities for African forces and international partners to address maritime security concerns.
“The exercise will be conducted in multiple areas at sea and ashore,” said Yakubu. “At-sea operations will be conducted throughout the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean. This year marks the second time the exercise will be hosted by Ghana, in its capital city of Accra.”
Numerous Maritime Operations Centers will participate ashore from across the Gulf of Guinea and West Africa, along with several international organizations. Training opportunities during OE21 include boarding techniques, search and rescue operations, medical casualty response, radio communication, and information management techniques.
“Our maritime security partnerships prepare African nations to prevent piracy and other illicit maritime activities that threaten development efforts, citizen security, and deprive states of resources required for fostering greater economic growth,” said U.S. Ambassador to Ghana, Stephanie S. Sullivan. “Exercises like Obangame Express create a cohesive community that is in a stronger position to confront these challenges.”
The 32 nations scheduled to participate in OE21 include Angola, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Canada, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Equatorial Guinea, France, Gabon, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Italy, Liberia, Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Portugal, Republic of Congo, São Tomé & Príncipe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain, Togo, and the United States. Also participating will be the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).