Exercise Obangame Express 2020, this year’s iteration of Africa’s largest maritime security exercise, has been canceled due to novel coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns.
The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) said in a statement that the decision was taken after careful consideration with exercise participants and host-nation countries.
Exercise Obangame Express, conducted by U.S. Naval Forces Africa (NAVAF), is designed to improve regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness, information-sharing practices, and tactical interdiction expertise to enhance the collective capabilities of participating nations to counter sea-based illicit activity.
The decision not to proceed with the exercise comes in response to the global effort to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) while minimizing exposure of U.S. and partner nation service members to this virus, said the AFRICOM statement.
The statement added that U.S. Africa Command will continue to evaluate and adjust the scope of its activities as necessary to ensure force health protection and prevent the spread of the virus.
“We continue to remain on top of the COVID-19 situation and take appropriate action to protect our troops and African partners,” said Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commander of U.S. Africa Command. “We may reduce in scope the size or cancel an exercise, but we will continue to lean forward to make sure troops in Africa have what they need.”
The U.S. routinely exercises with partners in Africa to build enduring relationships and combined capacity to ensure the safety and security of the regional maritime environment.
Exercise Obangame Express is one of three African regional “Express” series exercises sponsored by U.S. Africa Command and conducted annually by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet.
Obangame Express is an at-sea maritime exercise designed to improve cooperation among participating nations in order to increase maritime safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea. It focuses on maritime interdiction operations, as well as visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) techniques.
While this year’s exercise has been canceled, planning continues for a senior leader seminar and Obangame Express 2021.