The Horn Of Africa States: Development Diplomacy In The Integration Process – OpEd


The region has over the past decade taken on a new trajectory to stabilize and secure peace with a view to enhancing its economic cooperation and integration. The process has not been without pitfalls as those who benefit from the chaos and the leaders of chaos who passed through the governance process of the region, kept disrupting the process of peace and development.

Ethiopia grew at about 7% most of the decade and Djibouti also grew at a generally stable 5.3% annually. Eritrea’s GDP grew at about 4 % on average over the past decade. Even Somalia, the most fragile of the four SEED countries economically and politically, grew also at some 4% annually, on average.

Regional relations, despite having had distortions over the past decades kept improving and the political developments in the region continued to evolve positively. At least the people of the region, currently realize the need for stable governance systems away from the disruptions caused through the exploitation of the tribal/clan social infrastructure of the communities of the region.

The foreign media continued to emphasize and report on the conflicts of the region and the climate change effects, which naturally affect only parts of the region and not the whole. The region still produces most of its own food for its large 157 million population. Yet one would only observe exaggerated reports of hunger and starvation in the Horn of Africa States, as if all the 157 million people of the region are about to perish. This sensational reporting continued, but the region also continued its slow recovery not only from the conflicts but also from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The region is reverting to its traditional set up of living together as differing communities but sharing the bounties of the region and away from the foreign-directed agitations that have marred the region for a while. The region is learning to live with world power competitions and especially with respect to its geostrategic location. One finds all the protagonists living together in the region. There are the navies of the United States of America, France, Spain, Germany, Japan, Russia, Gulf States, Egypt, Turkey, China, and Taiwan, all in the region, but they are all being managed adroitly and with great adeptness. It is not in the interest of the region to make enemies of anyone, and neutrality seems to be working.

The region enjoys tremendous opportunities with respect to its large maritime, agricultural, sub-soil mineral resources and, indeed, human capital, which not only offers a large labor force but an equally large market as well. Regional security challenges are being addressed and development initiatives are on the increase. The airline travel among the countries of the region have improved greatly with linkages between all the capitals and, some of the regional cities within the SEED countries. The rail and road connections are also improving, and travel of people and movement of goods are being eased on even keels.

The region while welcoming unconditioned assistance, is realizing that it has to depend on its own resources for its own development processes, involving harmonized high-level contacts among the leaderships of the region and its business patrons. The energy development as now evidenced by the GERD is also encouraging many regional investors to take advantage of the availability of a resource that was missing in the past. Lack or high cost of energy was, indeed, in the way for development of many businesses in the past.

The region needs to move away from relying on NGOs and other organizations that act and behave like NGOs such as IGAD, which do not add value to the development of the region other than being an administrative burden. A new organization specific to the region and which is tasked to developing an integrated regional infrastructure is required. It is where the Horn of Africa States as a regional block comes into the picture, perhaps to be located also in Djibouti as being central to the region. IGAD involves member states that are already involved deeply in other regional blocks such as the EAC. No country can have dual loyalties, when it comes to economic, political and cultural interactions and integration. IGAD, should perhaps revert back to its original mandate of dealing with droughts and desertification and the fights against damages to the environment, where it could, perhaps, be more useful.

The recurrence of violence is a function of poverty and underdevelopment. A thriving, economically integrated Horn of Africa States regional block would be a bulwark against poverty and underdevelopment and hence violence and conflicts.

The region’s academia appears to be moving in the direction of putting forward positive ideas on addressing the regions’ internal plights and development requirements. Opposition based on clan/tribe infrastructures or for plain and senseless opposition, seems to being pushed out of the conscience of people in the region and this is positive. The region seems to be digging into its deep-rooted historical strengths to rise again from the chaos and corruption that was pushed into the region by the leaders of chaos, who are fast disappearing from the political arena of the region.

It is where development diplomacy becomes necessary for the region to work together at all levels and disrupt the attempts of the so-called international community and other regions and/or countries to disrupt its forward development and stability. It is clear that the region’s leadership is realizing that this is the way forward to have the region attain its full potential of a peaceful, stable and prosperous part of Africa, as it was always in the past.

Dr. Suleiman Walhad

Dr. Suleiman Walhad writes on the Horn of Africa economies and politics. He can be reached at [email protected].

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