The concept of gender equality has been expanded beyond reference to women to include youth, people of different ethnicities and other marginalised groups. It is recognised internationally as essential to sustainable development, peace and prosperity. However, discriminatory practices persist across the world and the African maritime sector is no exception. Although robust legislation seeks to encourage greater diversity, more needs to be done to include these under-represented groups in a sector that is central to the economies of Africa’s littoral states.

Key findings

The maritime sector remains male-dominated and gender integration is absent from many African maritime security and governance frameworks and strategies.

Gender initiatives within maritime operations focus mostly on women, with little attention paid to other marginalised groups.

The fact that the maritime space has traditionally been dominated by men has resulted in harmful and persistent practices perpetuating gender inequality.

The absence of adequate data makes it difficult to conduct a proper intersectional analysis within maritime operations.


The following recommendations are made to African Union member states:

Develop a maritime specific gender intersectional analysis framework. Firstly, apply a gender analysis, and secondly, take an intersectional approach toward gender to ensure that one gender is not monolithic or a homogenous group. Rather, there is a need to ensure that gender is understood as intersectional.

Review maritime strategies, policies and programmes to ensure the language is gender sensitive. Policies and programmes should be at a minimum, gender-sensitive/responsive and take into account the specific needs and roles of all genders.

Form partnerships with NGOs and international organisations. It is government’s responsibility

Understanding gender roles and disaggregating control and links to planning will allow for a more nuanced view of gender inequalities.

Diverse strategies may be necessary to achieve equitable outcomes for different groups.

Gender integration is still absent from the policy agendas and, where it is included, there is a lack of implementation and application.

Most strategies and frameworks in Africa tend to equate gender equality with women’s inclusion, grouping women as a homogenous group.

Due to the fact that the maritime industry has been gender blind for so long, it will take time to make it at a minimum gender-responsive.

to mainstream gender and to ensure the private sector applies laws and policies. NGOs can help provide more tools and approaches
to ensure policies and laws are not one- dimensional or unintentionally discriminate against other groups.

Cooperation is needed at all levels from
local communities to professional networks. Evidence suggests ‘safety nets’ in the form
of cooperatives, professional networks or associations help women to overcome feelings of isolation in the male-dominated sector.

For the maritime industry:

The industry should consider ways of promoting young people to senior positions, especially through mentorship programmes and specialised training courses.
About the authors
Liezelle Kumalo is a Researcher in the Peace Operations and Peacebuilding programme at the Institute for Security Studies. She has an Master’s degree in international relations from the University of the Witwatersrand.
Denys Reva is a Researcher in the Peace Operations and Peacebuilding programme at the Institute for Security Studies. He has a Master’s degree in security studies from the University of Pretoria.