The Horn Of Africa States: The Coming Danger To Its Blue Economy – OpEd


Various studies including NASA’s conclude that humanity’s dependence on oceans and seas affects almost every aspect of life on earth, ranging from trade to tourism, from energy to environment and from health to wealth. It is generally reported that earth’s blue economy drives development of coastal cities and villages and its diminishing value as a habitat affects more the poorer countries than the developed richer ones.

Millions and indeed, billions of people depend on the blue economy for their livelihoods. Many of them are in the poorer developing economies of the world, where some of the smaller islands in the seas and oceans are now currently threatened to completely to disappear as a result of the enormous pressures on the exploitation of earth’s resources and hence its pollution. The damages done to the seas and oceans by modern life is so great that it, in fact, threatens life on earth in general. No wonder, continuous studies are underway as to what to do about this new realization of the threats to humanity on earth and particularly to those of the poorer developing countries.

According to a FAO 2022 report, “aquatic foods provided about 3.3 billion people with at least 20 percent of their average intake of animal protein, with an even higher proportion in many poor countries in 2019.” The World Bank further reports that “Globally, fish stocks are significantly affected by illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing, though the exact magnitude of the matter is difficult to assess accurately.”

The Horn of Africa States is one of those regions whose fish stocks are continuously being diminished by illegal and unreported fishing from far and wide as the Somali federal government which should have been protecting its seas and oceans, the largest in the region, is too weak to prevent such enormous thieving of its oceans and seas. The issue is further worsened and complicated by the extremely corrupt governance of the country. According to Corruption Perception Index of world’s countries, “Somalia, ranked as the most corrupt country in the world for a number of recent years, has undergone a shift between 2019 (CPI score of 9) and 2021 (CPI 13), finally regaining the top spot for corruption in 2022 (CPI 12).”

In April 2022, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (“IGAD”) which consists of eight East, Central and Horn Africa countries, the region signed its blue economy strategy, but the irony of such communique was that despite owning the largest marine space in the region, Somalia’s input into the project was limited and almost sidelined by Kenya, a country that has the most ambitions on Somalia’s waters playing a pivotal role in the process.

It would appear the recent encounter between the two governments of Somalia and Kenya, in Nairobi further emphasized the importance of the two countries agreeing to “work on removing barriers to facilitate the movement of people and goods, promote investment and open up new markets of mutual interest.” This would, of course include Kenya working on preparing Kenya companies and even foreign companies operating in Kenya to work in the Somali maritime space, which is over 832,000 sq, km, bigger than Somalia’s land space. Where does Somalia stand in any such negotiation or collaboration, when it is not even able to control its rivers, seas and oceans? It would have, perhaps, been wiser for Somalia, to halt any developmental processes until its is able to first stabilize itself and ensure the rule of law in the country before embarking on grandiose projects that would, no doubt, benefit the others, such as Kenya would represent, at present.

While Somalia’s relations with others should be nurtured and built, it should not be at the expense of its people and its resources and the wealth of its generations to come. Most current agreements and contracts would appear to being pushed by NGOs and corrupt officialdom in both countries, which could lead to issues which are similar, if not worse than the ICC case between Somalia and Kenya, which was instigated by Kenya’s ambitions on Somalia’s waters. It does, indeed, seem that Somali leaders have not learned much from that old case. But Kenyans should also know that Somalia will one day stand up and their attempts to exploit the weak Somalia leaderships of today would only create further antagonisms in the region in the future, which should have been left behind and in the past.

Somalia does not belong to the EAC and its admission to the organization was not, indeed, wise. However, since it has happened, one must note that Somalia would be slowly but deliberately absorbed into that region. The integration process has started and as new economic, security, education, health, communication, transport, infrastructure, political amalgamation contracts and other deals are signed, Somalia will slowly disappear as a country and become a province, much like the Rift Valley or Central and Western regions of Kenya.

Many Horn Africans would be surprised but the EAC is working on integrating itself into a new federal republic organized and built much like the United States of America with a national congress or parliament, a senate, a capital, a president and, of course, an administration consisting of the various departments of governance. Absorbing Somalia into the EAC has just started with the agreements recently signed in Nairobi by its Prime Minister and team. But this, of course, will be pushed through the corrupt parliament of Somalia, into law. They would keep laying down the seeds of future conflicts in the region for a few fistful of dollars.

Many wonder, why Somalia does not, indeed, work on its currency or even on stabilizing its political setup in terms of member states and why its ruling regime is involved in so many corrupt contracts enriching themselves and their families. This is all to prepare themselves to become rich citizens of the new East Africa Federation under formation. They would settle in some of those countries and they do not care what happens to the rest of the other over thirty million Somalis. The irony is that the corrupt parliament is enabling a few corrupt apples in that Horn African society. Although the East Africa Federation is under formation, no one knows about how the ordinary Somali feels about this new eastafricanization! There will certainly be a referendum, but like any other electoral process in the country, would this also be manipulated? Perhaps! There is the danger not only to the blue economy but to the country in its entirety and Somalis must be prepared to lose their identity for the first time.

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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