By Kofi Ampeah-Woode
A five-day symposium has opened in Accra to discuss ways in which Africa armed forces can standardize training and procedures, to be better prepared to support United Nations and African Union mandated peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance missions in Africa, and it is under the theme “signal training! Install, operate, maintain, and protect.”
The opening ceremony of the symposium, which is the 14th edition of Africa Endeavor, took place on Monday, 19th August, 2019, at the Movenpick Hotel, Accra, with the participation of about 160 military officers, defence industry exhibitors and multi-national institutions, from about 42 countries and is jointly hosted by the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) and the United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM), for the 2nd time.
The Africa Endeavor events, begun in 2006 in South Africa, under the aegis of USAFRICOM, and has facilitated training and engagements between the African Union (AU), European Union (EU), North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Regional partners, and communicates with more than 2000 communications specialists from 42 countries and 6 African regional organizations, training and developing the signals in cyber workforce.
Speaking as the Guest of Honour at the ceremony, the Minister for National Security – Mr Albert Kan Dapaah, stated that the challenges attached with interoperability among African nation states armed forces persists, in spite of threats of cyber security, which transcends national borders, and with the propensity to affect international peace and security.
“The purpose of Africa Endeavor 2019, is to engage with Command, Control, Communication, Computers, Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) African partner leaders, to help facilitate the development of Defence Information Technology Network at the Strategic, Operational and Tactic levels, and promote interoperability”, Mr Dapaah stated.
The Minister stated that Ghana has embarked on a “Digital Ghana Agenda” that seeks to digitize government services and the Ghanaian economy, at large and that, undergirding the implementation of this vision are Information Systems, Communication Technologies and security of the digital platform.
He further asserted that technology would continue to take centre stage in Ghana’s efforts to achieve seamless information sharing, speedy processes and collaboration amongst stakeholders necessary for unity of efforts and thus, the military have a significant role and must team up with industry to fashion out solutions.
Major General (Maj Gen) Todd McAffrey – Chief of Staff, USAFRICOM, said in an address stated that USAFRICOM, is committed to working by, with, and through African partners to address current threats and to mitigate activities poised to undermine African diplomacy, development, or defence efforts, with networks established on the continent helping to accomplish those objectives and to guard against shared challenges.
Maj Gen McAffrey said that such symposiums also provide an opportunity to bolster both bi-lateral and multi-lateral partnerships, which helps to develop complimentary techniques and protocols and assist in promoting uniquely African solutions for African challenges.
USAFRICOM yearly coordinates with many of African nations to conduct exercises such as ‘The Accord’, ‘Express Series’ and ‘Exercise African Lion’, where a regional and multi-national force of strategic partners, train to respond to various threats to regional security and stability.
General McAffrey intimated that pivotal to the success of these exercises is a single Command and Control network, used by all participants to communicate across multiple domains that link partner operations in the air, on the ground, and at sea.
The US Army General said that “Lessons learned in these exercises reinforce the value of reliable interoperable and standardized secure communication, which are critical in providing decision makers and Commanders, the information necessary to maintain Command and Control and also facilitate synchronizing multi-national and multi-domain operations, to achieve military objectives”.
Maj Gen McAffrey underscored the fact that Cybercrime and cyber-attacks are immune to traditional state or country borders and that weakness in cyber-security in one partner’s network, can impact an entire network and strength, in relationships to promote peace, security and prosperity.
At a presser after the opening ceremony where the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS), GAF – Lieutenant General Obed Boamah Akwa and Maj Gen McAffrey took turns to answer questions, General Akwa intimated that one sure way of responding appropriately to the threats that are developing in and around the boarders of Ghana, West Africa and Africa, generally, is to share unimpeachable intelligence and that such critical intelligence must be shared within secured environments to ensure fault-free planning.
On a question on how impactful Africa Endeavor’s 14 years has had on a phenomenon such as Boko Haram, piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and general terrorism attacks in West African, Gen Akwa reemphasized that a network of likeminded leadership is required to tackle trans-national threats, while Maj Gen McAffrey reiterated that such threats require regional sharing of information and that any assistance from USAFRICOM is virtually impossible without an interoperable network of secured communication being in place.
Dignitaries in attendance at the ceremony included the Deputy Defence Minister and Member of Parliament for Nkoranza – Maj Derek Oduro (rtd), the US Embassy Charge d’Affairs – Christopher Lamura, the Chief of the Army Staff of GAF – Maj Gen Ayamdo, Chief of the Naval Staff of GAF – Rear Admiral Amoama and the Chief of Staff at the General Headquarters, GAF – Maj Gen Thomas Oppong-Peprah.