The Horn Of Africa States: The Building Of The Region – OpEd


We all know Toyota as the largest car manufacturer in the world, producing 10.5 million vehicles in 2017. It was followed by Volkswagen, which produced 10.4 million during the same year and then by Hyundai which produced 7.3 million vehicles in the same year. The average car production per  employee per year  for Toyota was 26.47 while Volkswagen produced 16.67 vehicles per employee per year during that same year (Source: Statista).

This is a high production capacity and industriousness when one considers that neither Japan nor Germany have most raw materials needed for the manufacture of cars in their countries. The same goes for South Korea which produces Hyundai. These countries surpass all countries in industrial production, although China is now pushing to catch up. One thus asks oneself why such enormous industrial production as opposed to countries which may have access to much larger raw material base in their own home turfs.

This is said to be due to a national spirit of cooperation and willingness to work together and succeed together for the long term good of their nations. They, indeed, have succeeded in lifting their nations above many others. The Horn of Africa States region which consists of the five SEEDS countries of Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Sudan do not appear to have that kind of temperament. On the contrary they have the capacity to destroy whatever one ruler, one company manager and one politician inherited from another. They do not appear to like seeing the fruits of the works achieved by the leader(s) before and this is not the way to build nations and the region.

Building a nation is not much different from that of constructing a house or for that matter any kind of construction work. It is said to be brick by brick. A house made of unfired bricks is dangerous. It could be washed away by the next rainstorm or broken by the next earth tremor or by any kind of calamity. On the contrary a building made of fired bricks can withstand the onslaught of any tempest or floods or even some earth tremors. Indeed, it is adding one solid brick over another until the total building is complete. One could have thought that countries like Japan and Germany totally devastated would never be able to rise again but the opposite is true.

Japan and Germany have rebuilt themselves after being devastated by the Second World War. They did not spend much of their time blaming what was done onto them, which among others included nuclear bombs in the case of Japan. Yet in the Horn of Africa region, we see leaders dismantling and spending their time insulting and belittling anything that was done by previous leaders. They direct their energies on the wrong issues and end up finishing their times without achieving anything. Blame games have never achieved results and only increase the ire and anger of a part of the population against another, which not only disrupts development but stunts it, for each leader appears to be starting from some ground zero of his own.

In every society, even the most primitive ones, there are always rules, and the rule of law not only involves the words and phraseology of the rules but also the spirit of the law. Leaders of the region seem not to be following neither the spirit of the law nor the terms of the law. Each leader, manager or even chief tends to make his/her own rules as one goes along. It is perhaps why the region does not move one iota forward, for no one follows any rules but works on one’s feelings and emotions at the time of an event or need. The fact that elections get delayed and delayed in the region is due to the desire of the leaders to stay in power longer than one was elected for and they do it at the expense of the constituency that elected him in the first place. They are never ashamed of themselves, and they still want the electorate to clap for them, may be even with their nails.

The business of building a nation is not much different than raising an orchard. One tends to the seedlings and provides them with every conceivable favorable environment – water, air, soil to enable the trees to grow tall and bear good fruits. The region needs to develop its hidden assets through education, through following the rule of law, through the provision for every individual the proper environment to thrive and if one is not able to do so, to let the population see that one is trying.

It is a highly competitive world we live in and if a nation or region is not organized to compete, it is clear it would be left behind as the Horn of Africa States is being left behind today. What the region and each nation in the region needs to do today is to mobilize the populations for development and not for wars, which is basically ethnicity in the region. If the regional leaders stand shoulder to shoulder with each other without fear and in the most heartless of rivalries, there is no obstacle they would not be able to overcome and no peril they would not subdue.

What is most discomforting in the Horn of Africa region is that people follow so-called leaders because they belong to the same tribe and/or clan knowing very well that the leader does not change one’s life one bit or add value to one’s life in any way. They should have followed, like other people in the world, those who would change their lives for the better but a hungry man, a destitute person fighting for someone who happens by birth to be from the same clan/tribe is not only stupid but disheartening and we know the region is generally organized in that format.

Life is never easy, and no one has ever achieved success through idleness or complacency. One must work hard and work with those who may have the same interest and the same goals not those who only use them to reach power and stay in power because they belong to the same bloodline. How does a bloodline add to the life of anyone? This may have been useful in nomadic life when people were exposed to the vagaries of life but in the present urbanized world, there is no tribal/clan insurance that covers every tribesman’s educational services or health services or even employment services. It is why the Horn African should heal oneself from this tribal/clan diseases which is the cause of most of one’s miseries. It is not blind following the blind that leads countries to develop. It is hard work and effort, and it is difficulties that teach one to earn from mistakes. Perhaps, the region would revisit itself and renew itself as individual nations and as a region. It is the only way forward.

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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