WOMEN in maritime took centre stage at the inauguration of the Women in Maritime of West and Central Africa (WIMOWCA), the newest IMO-supported regional association for women in the maritime sector (WIMA).

WIMOWCA interim president Sylvia Asana Dauda Owu said the objective of the organisation is to harness the potential and contribution of women in West and Central Africa to ensure the sustainable development of the maritime industry in Africa.

“Women, as you are all aware, form over 51% of the world population and the same is true for Africa, as such they cannot be left out in any global effort to confront the challenges we face today in the global maritime industry,” she said.

“Sustainable maritime development would require inclusive participation of all, men and women, if we are to succeed in our endeavour in that regard.”

The hybrid event was held on 23 July at MT Addico Conference Hall in Accra, Ghana and livestreamed to a global audience.

In his keynote speech, IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said for sustainability and success in the modern world, shipping needs diversity in the workforce and we need women to drive the decision-making processes.

“We are on the right path and progress has been made. However much still needs to be done to help the maritime industry progress toward gender equality,” he said.

“WIMOWCA is a welcome addition to the global network of WIMAs. This special event provides a unique opportunity to discuss and celebrate two topics: women in the maritime community, and Africa as a maritime continent.”

Seven other WIMAs have already been established across Africa, Arab states, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific, supported by the IMO’s long-running Women in Maritime gender program. Between them, the WIMAs count more than 700 participants from across 152 countries.

People joining the newest WIMA, which will focus on Anglophone west and central Africa, will have access to similar collaborative and networking opportunities and access to IMO‑sponsored training through the WIMAs.

Network of Professional Women in the Maritime and Port Sectors for West and Central Africa (NPWMP-WCA), which was launched in February 2007 in Benin focuses on Francophone west and central Africa.

In his speech at the event, Ghanaian minister of transport Kwaku Ofori Asiamah spoke about the role women will play in the “African perspective of the blue economy”.

“The blue economy has quite rightly been described as the ‘New Frontier of the African Renaissance’,” he said.

“Our continent is indeed a big island, with 38 coastal countries. Over 90% of Africa’s international trade, imports and exports are conducted by sea. The potential runs into many trillions of dollars and promises to combine enormous economic growth for our respective countries. Inclusive development is one of the surest ways and sustainable means to harness the full potential of Africa’s blue economy. Women must be at the heart of this agenda.”

The inaugural WOMOWCA event also featured a panel discussion on “The impact of maritime insecurity on shipping in the Gulf of Guinea, challenges and the way forward”, which provided a regional perspective on the situation.

Additional presentations from development partners touched upon the work of the US Naval Forces Europe and Africa Women’s, Peace, and Security Working Group in West and Central Africa, the IMOGEN IMO Member States delegates’ gender initiative and the importance of galvanizing women in the maritime industry. For the full programme, visit the event page here.

IMO’s Women in Maritime programme has been running for more than 30 years, supporting women in both shore-based and sea-going roles.