African leaders on October 14 signed a deal to boost security off the continent's economically crucial coasts, hoping to shore up development by tackling maritime crimes like piracy and smuggling.
The deal is designed to improve information-sharing between African nations, a weakness that pirates and smugglers have benefited from in the past, slipping between territorial waters with little trouble.
The talks drew 18 heads of state -- an unusually high figure for an AU meeting of this kind, signalling the importance that governments have placed on the need to cut piracy and other crime in Africa's waters.
Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso hailed the African Union agreement as "historic", while Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta said it showed Africa's ability to put together a continent-wide strategy. Sassou Nguesso said 43 nations had adopted the binding agreement -- which will see countries pay into a special fund for maritime security -- at a summit in Togo's capital Lome.
As he opened the summit, Chad's President Idriss Deby, the current AU chief, noted that some 90 percent of Africa's imports and exports are transported by sea, making maritime security key to the continent's economic future.
Of the AU's 54 member states, 38 have coastlines.