The Horn Of Africa States: The Proposition (Part IV) – OpEd


In the previous three parts, we discussed why there should be a need for a Horn of Africa States region, working together, where peace and stability reigns and where the animal instinct of the tribe and the clan has no place in the affairs of the region.

We presented the need to move away from the old politics of antagonisms among the nation states and politicians of the region and we presented the need for the business community and the private sector take part in the transformation of the region from the small markets they currently enjoy in the enclosure nation-state formats and look beyond to the larger marketplace, they could harness for their businesses, which a regional setting could provide. We noted that people working together can achieve more than they can imagine, and that unity and cooperation is the only way to survival. We noted that mighty rivers like the Nile start with only drops of water that are added to other drops which become streams, which are in their turn added onto other streams, until they become the mighty rivers that we know of. We were alluding to the fact that if the states of the region put their resources together and addressed the seemingly endless troubles of the region, their joint efforts would be much greater and much more beneficial for the region.

We know that the Horn of Africa States, if measures of classical economists are used, would be one of the poorest regions of the world. The gap between the region and other parts of the world would be staggering and in a short period they should all have starved. Yet some 157 million people live in the region, and this is not fed by other people. They feed themselves through their efforts and sweat, whether tilling their lands, fishing or husbanding their animals or trading among themselves and with others. 

The Horn of Africa States is not alone, but many parts of Africa are misread and covered by misinformation to make the region and the continent as hopeless as they can be. This is all false and the region and Africa can survive. They have survived throughout the existence of man on earth and thrived and populated other continents, changing colors, if necessary, because of climate.

The Horn of Africa States region is being now made busy with tribal/clan matters whenever actions of their governments appear to be moving in the right direction. A clan or a tribe would be shouting from some place, claiming that these actions are intended to wipe them out and/or weaken them. Actions of governments, if equitable, are only meant for the whole and the people of the region should learn that threats to their own governments only destroys the whole and keeps them backwards. There can never be sustainable development in that kind of environment.

The Horn of Africa States has had a multitude of conflicts over decades and concerted efforts by the governments of the region is the only way to find and implement concrete solutions for these problems instead of creating new ones all the time, flaring in different parts of the region. The region can recover and transform itself through reduction of inequalities and impertinent imperfections. The people of the region are all the same and need equal justice and equal treatment under the laws of the lands with no one being superior to another. 

This should be put into practice by the governments of the region and competence, experience, expertise, and skills only should be the determining factors distinguishing people from each other, when it comes to jobs, contracts and/or any public activities. The private sector should be given significant leeway to participate in the reconstruction of the region with governmental supervision and facilitation to ensure abeyance of the laws of the region. The path to prosperity is not complicated, but people make it difficult, through selfishness and/or servitude to others.

The region should produce its own foods. They have native grains and other grains and arable land. Concerted efforts by the governments should enable the region to grow its own food to secure the region from the vagaries of world food insecurities. The climate, although changing, is good for substantial food production in the region. Only human effort appears to be missing, and this is where the governments should be paying a lot of attention. 

The region owns vast water belts in the form of a long coast of some 4,700 km and rivers and numerous small lakes, sufficient enough to provide fish of all kinds if the necessary investments are made. This is where easing investment laws need to be implemented to allow even for local and foreign direct investments in the region.

In the past, people used to produce and /or grow their own foods and although there was always hunger as there will be hunger in the future, it was never determined by others as to who should live and who should die, as it appears today. The world is no longer the safe place it used to be, and the region needs to prepare itself for surviving the food challenges ahead. There are currently availability issues of food emanating from the Ukraine war and there are also rice production and distribution issues from the mostly Asiatic producing countries. What would the region do?

The region is endowed with all the atouts for local food production. The region owns lands, water both fresh and seawater and it can farm, fish and rear animals. Agro industries handling these foods could be installed and this would reduce costs such as port costs, shipping and other transportation costs and taxes.

This is where the private sector should be involved as they have the means and the wherewithal to handle much of the work required in the food production processes. The process of food production would lower migration from the region and would hence alleviate poverty as many of the youthful population of the region would reasonably paid incomes from working in the region instead of traveling away and taking hazardous adventures to distant lands mostly into unknown challenges.

Job creations would allow the youthful populations of the region live in their lands, like their peers in other parts of the world, instead of being made to migrate and seek the same from some place else. The food production processes, and related agro businesses would have domino effects on other sectors of the economies of the region such as the finance and banking, housing and properties in the form of lands, tourism and cultural developments. The region would be able to benefit from its vast territories and seas to develop shipping, rail and roads, airline travel and other transportation, including personal vehicles and other means of people movement within the region.

This would make the region more peaceful and hence attractive to other people of the world to come and invest or stay and live there because of its beautiful weather. Complaining of other peoples’ actions have not led to the region anywhere. It will be what the region does for itself, and working together instead of the singular nation-state format which has led to many problems for the region, would be the ideal way in the future. Countries can exist in their own formats, but it would be preferrable to have common agreements on a multitude of issues such as customs, foreign policy, economic and financial policies, freedom of people and goods and services within the region and others.

We have noted that some people consider the Horn of Africa States as a wishful prospect. But it is not as wishful as it appears to them. Already countries like Ethiopia and Djibouti have a number of bilateral agreements and Somalia and Djibouti have also bilateral agreements. Ethiopia and Eritrea have bilateral agreements. It is just converting such agreements into a multi-lateral agreements that encompasses the four SEED countries and improving on them.

The region owns substantial financial resources, but they are currently blocked either by ignorance or by old regulations in each of the states which need to be modified to deal in this digital age. Funds are scattered in the region, and these should be collected legally and professionally and invested in profitable ventures that would assist the region rise from the current economic stagnation it finds itself. The location of the region once peace and stability are assured would be attractive to many investors across the globe. It al depends on what the leaders of the region do. We are hopeful that the leaders of the region would take the challenge and create, and thus helping themselves into posterity, The Horn of Africa States, as an economically integrated regional Block.

Perhaps it would be opportune here to mention a story I read many years ago and narrated by Maulana Wahiduddin Khan. He was presenting a case on history speaking and he said that Roger II, (1095 -1154), founder of the Norman dynasty in Sicily holds a distinguished place among European medieval monarchs. He set up his capital at Palermo and built up a powerful navy. His success as a medieval monarch is reported by European historians as having made Palermo and Sicily a meeting place of the scholars of his worlds at the time, from the Muslim world and his European world. Could the leaders of the Horn of Africa State make meetings/conferences of the Scholars of the region to map out a new paths of development for the region? Obviously, the nation state in the region is failing and only collective efforts using the resources of the region wisely would be, in our view, the most viable option.

I would conclude this part IV of this series with another story about this man who became old without having married and when he was asked why he did not marry, he replied that he was always looking for the perfect spouse. He was asked if he ever found a perfect one, he replied that he did, indeed, find one, and continued that he could not marry her, because she was also looking for a perfect spouse and he did not meet her required standards. Would the region and the unitary states of the region be still looking for faults in other countries and other peoples of the region? If the answer to this question is in the positive, then they would never be able to get along with one another. I believe this is not the case, in the Horn of Africa States, where a need for one of the leaders of the region, if not all of them, to take up the mantle.

Being aware of one’s weaknesses and shortcomings presents humility in individuals and unity in societies. The region must remember that no great feats would be accomplished in the region by single countries. Only a combination and joint efforts of the region would pull up the region from the low status it finds itself in the eyes of others. Economies of scale is an important factor that the leaders of the region should consider. Instead of being limited to a specific space with its own shortcomings, a wider region with larger resources, would be much more beneficial for the populations of the region. We urge the nation states of the region not to look for ideal situations. That is in the realm of impossibilities. One must work with what one has, and the region has itself only with all its drawbacks and resources.

Negligent attitudes would only fritter away time and there is no time for such in the region at this present time. There must be always an eye and thought processes on the future. It is time for the Horn of Africa States.

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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