July 17, 2015
By Awale Kullane
Investing in post-war Somalia to advance US strategic interests
The right time for the United States to invest in Somalia’s future is now.
Somalia is turning the corner after decades of violence and has a lot to offer the United States economically and strategically, but the country first needs investment and support to explore those opportunities and find its footing.
As U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry noted in May 5, 2015 visit to Mogadishu:
Somalia’s return to effective government is an historic opportunity for everybody to push back extremism and to empower people in a whole country to be able to live on the promise of their country.
My country has made tremendous progress in its struggle against Al Shabaab. In June 2015, Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke announced that the Federal Government of Somalia now controls more than eighty percent of the country—an achievement that would not have been possible without the assistance of U.S. intelligence and drone strikes, as well as African Union forces.
Now, we face the tremendous challenge of rebuilding a nation torn apart by decades of civil war. The success of the new Somali government’s efforts to create economic opportunity and ratify an inclusive constitution will be just as important as its military victories, and the United States has significant strategic and economic interests in ensuring a prosperous future for the people of Somalia.
As the security situation in Somalia improves, industries that have been hamstrung by violence and lack of governance will reappear in force. Fishing has historically been a major source of livelihood for Somalis, but without a coast guard to patrol the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), piracy and illegal fishing present major obstacles.
An industry analysis conducted by Shuraako in 2013 conservatively estimated Somalia’s potential yearly sustainable catch to be 40,000 metric tons; from 1997-2006, Somali fishermen caught only 550 metric tons a year—barely one percent of its sustainable potential. Once our government has the capacity to protect its waters and establish a regulatory framework for the industry, Somalia’s coastline—the longest on the continent—will be ripe for investment and development.
Somalia’s coast is also critical to the international shipping industry as a gateway to the Suez Canal, through which 12 percent of all world trade passes. Piracy off the Somali coast, which just a few years ago cost the shipping industry $7 billion, has all but disappeared; in 2014, only three piracy attacks were reported. Our long coast and superior ports could prove very beneficial for our landlocked neighbors in East Africa—a booming shipping industry in Somalia will not only be beneficial to the Somali economy, but will also assist with the development of our neighbors.
Somalia’s future will be bright. With unrealized potential in the agriculture, livestock, and fishing industries, recent oil discoveries, and a people known for their entrepreneurial spirit, Somalia is ready and eager for development—and an investment in Somalia’s future is sure to pay off.
With the support of the United States, we can cement recent military gains against Al Shabaab by creating economic opportunity for the Somali people. By investing in and supporting Somalia, the U.S. would further its ability to project power in the region, restrict Al Shabaab’s influence and capability, and improve prospects for stability and prosperity in East Africa.
Just as instability is contagious and creates problems for neighboring countries, a strong Somalia would be a positive influence for the surrounding region. Robust investment in our future would prove good for the Somali people, for East Africa, and for the United States.
As President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has stated, “We have a country that is beginning to unite as a nation, behind a vision that will see a federal and united Somalia in 2016.”
Kullane is the chargé d’affairs a.i., Embassy of the Federal Republic of Somalia in Washington, D.C., and the chargé d’affairs a.i., Permanent Mission of the Federal Republic of Somalia to the United Nations in New York.
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