LAGOS, Nigeria—Obangame Express (OE23), the largest multinational maritime exercise in Western and Central Africa, kicked off its 12th year with 33 participating nations, Jan. 23, 2023.
The exercise, hosted in Lagos, Nigeria, will feature both in-port and at-sea training scenarios including maritime operations center familiarization and exchanges on medical care, search and rescue operations, and boarding techniques.
“Illicit maritime activity threatens regional development efforts, weakens state security, and robs our African partners of the precious resources upon which they rely for economic growth and effective governance,” said Adm. Stuart B. Munsch, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa. “Exercise Obangame Express is an important opportunity to improve our collective capabilities, build trust between our nations, and promote stability in a vitally important part of the world.”
OE23, one of three NAVAF-facilitated regional exercises, provides collaborative opportunities for African and U.S. forces, and international partners to address shared transnational maritime concerns. NAVAF’s ongoing maritime security cooperation with African partners focuses on overcoming the challenges of maritime safety and security in the region.
The exercise is an opportunity for like-minded partners to work together to develop African-led solutions to shared transnational challenges and promote global security.
Nigeria, OE23’s host, is an important partner of the United States in promoting a peaceful, well-policed Gulf of Guinea. Nigeria also maintains the largest navy in the Gulf of Guinea region and is critical to security and stability in Africa.
“Obangame Express 2023 reflects the United States’ continued dedication to our partners in the Gulf of Guinea as they strive to secure their people, their economies, and their resources. We are delighted that Nigeria is hosting this military exercise, as we firmly believe that maritime security in Nigeria and its neighbors will lead to greater prosperity for the region as a whole,” said Mary Beth Leonard, U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria.
The exercise takes place across five zones in the southern Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Guinea – stretching from the West African island of Cabo Verde to the Central African shores of Angola, including the Economic Community of West African States (ECWAS) and Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).
The 33 nations participating in OE23 include Angola, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Canada, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, France, Gabon, The Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Italy, Liberia, Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Congo, Sao Tome & Principe, 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).
The U.S. shares a common interest with African partner nations in ensuring security, safety, and freedom of navigation on the waters surrounding the continent, because these waters are critical for Africa’s prosperity and access to global markets.
For more than 80 years, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-U.S. Naval Forces Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF) has forged strategic relationships with allies and partners, leveraging a foundation of shared values to preserve security and stability.
Headquartered in Naples, Italy, NAVEUR-NAVAF operates U.S. naval forces in the U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) and U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) areas of responsibility. U.S. Sixth Fleet is permanently assigned to NAVEUR-NAVAF, and employs maritime forces through the full spectrum of joint and naval operations.