The Horn Of Africa States: A Call For Economic Cooperation – OpEd


There is a myriad of challenges in the Horn of Africa States from regional challenges to local state level challenges. These are challenges ranging from economic to social political and cultural issues. The Horn of Africa States suffers from ethnic violence within each state to mistrust among the member states and climate change effects. The group is challenged at every level and the leadership of the region, instead of drawing closer to each other, seem to be drifting apart and hence the region’s challenges, instead of becoming more and more manageable, are turning the region into the misery it is.

No doubt the region needs to improve its economic situation, in terms of growth, industrialization, trade, and indeed diversifying its economic base from the rural subsistence and pastoral livelihood to one of urban, industrial and trading power it could be. Such a transformation would help the region retain its migrating youth who are dying in distant lands and seas or ending up serving others, who have no interest in their welfare or growth.

It is why we urge the Horn African States to revisit and revamp their efforts on industrializing their countries and develop companies and corporations that can truly make deals with the foreigner who would always be around to pick up the wealth of the region. This would create an environment that would not only eradicate unemployment and hence migration of the youth of the region, but also add value to the wealth of the region, more than the natural resources alone can offer.

The private sector of the economy should be involved in the development of the region in addition to the public sector. Countries that allow their private sector with assistance from their governments always fare better than those with strict government controls on life and loves in a country. In Africa, there are those, who because of the power placed in their hands, by forces beyond the continent, believe that they are beyond the grasp of their own people. Dictators always die in the hands of those who created them in the first place, and Africa is full of those!

The Horn of Africa States needs to act collectively and not individually for the individual states are weaker than a group and vulnerable and can be exploited by forces larger and stronger. Today there is competition between the old powers as represented by the United States and its allies and the new emerging powers such as China, Russia and India. The clash between these forces would affect the Horn of Africa States region even if they are not involved in the struggle. The location of the region exposes it to the forces beyond the region, which are stronger militarily, economically, and financially and their maneuverings would have an impact on the region. It would be wise if the member states of the region worked together and presented themselves as a block rather than the individual countries they are. 

Blocks is how countries work in these challenging times and those who congregate in groups stand a better chance of survival than those who stand alone. Europe and its transatlantic alliance with North America are a formidable force to reckon with when it comes to dealing with powers like China or India with populations that surpass one and half billion each. Developmental business requires large markets, which can produce and consume enormous quantities of products and services. A one stop-shop representing the region for negotiating with others would be a good start for the Horn of Africa States. With a 157 million population, it stands a chance to survive.

Uniting together and acting together would enable the region to attract better prices, better quality and better efficiencies from any counterpart beyond the region, not only for its imports but also for its exports. Working together would help create platforms that would not only assist private enterprises of the region financially but also in procuring for them reliable markets for their products or reliable partners for their imports. Such platforms would help them have access to other regional and international organizations such as the African Development Bank Group, the Islamic Development Bank Group, the Development Bank of South Africa or the East African Development Bank. Eventually, a development bank for the Horn of Africa States would be created. Such platforms would create awareness among the companies of the region and the vast opportunities available within the region and beyond.

In the Horn of Africa States, it is said: “If you pick up one end of a stick, you also pick up the other end.” It is time the region picked up its stick.

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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