The Horn of Africa States: Development Prospects (Part III) – OpEd


There is no doubt the Horn of Africa States poses challenges to those are far and near but who have interest in the region. This is evidenced by the fact that even after four decades of chaos and decadence they caused, they are still unable to handle the region. Indeed, the region was always a challenge to foreigners from whatever quarter. Many times, the region lost but most often the foreigners left it alone with its wiles, and there is no doubt that those who currently feel they may have the upper hand in messing it up further would lose, in the longer run. One often talks about chronic instability and chronic droughts and chronic mal-governance of the region and hence resultant chronic poverty, which all lead to a repetition of the cycle again and again.

The region is, however, waking up to the call and possibility of cooperation among the region’s states is not as far distant as it appears. The relationships among the countries of the region and the peoples of the region and growth of common economic infrastructures such as roads and rail and even air transport is now more evident than ever. Djibouti remains the main port serving Ethiopia, but close relations between Eritrea and Ethiopia does not negate possible usage of the ports of Eritrea to serve northern Ethiopia, while ports of Somalia on the Indian Ocean and even on northern Somalia could serve both the south and east of Ethiopia.

Food production in Ethiopia, which by far the largest economic powerhouse in the region feeds many of the populations of the region and reaches most dinner tables in most households of the region while traders from the coastal regions ply the region and supply goods to many parts of the region. The traditional cycle of highland and lowland cooperation is on the rise, for the two regions of the region do complement each other. Energy is now expected to be added on to the myriad activities of the region where electricity from the GERD is hoped to be soon in every household, office, workshop and factories of the region.

There is always a focus on governance of the region and those who interest in having the region wiggly all the time emphasize on the weaknesses of governance and never talk about the improvements on governance. There is no region in the world which has or enjoys perfect governance. Why should one expect perfect governance from the Horn of Africa States. Every governmental infrastructure anywhere has its own weaknesses and those of the Horn of Africa state is no exception. Perhaps, and because of the constant focus on them, they appear to be worse than others. But in truth, governance in the region is not different from those of other parts of the world. People make mistakes and they would continue to make mistakes. It is the citizen which should adopt to the wherewithal at the disposal of the governance in the region and move on to do their part in progressing the region forward.

The region is wealthy and the fact that it owns a geostrategic location assures it remains and continues to be potentially rich. Port infrastructure improvements, tourism on its blue waters and its high mountains and indigenous historical sites unequalled anywhere, such as the churches dug out of solid rocks should help development of a successful tourism.

Governments and citizens of the region are blinded with rage against each other, which should not be the case. A wise Horn of African of old times is quoted to have said that he has tried every conceivable way to disarm and dishonor other men including making men go to their mothers,  and that he found the best way to live with a fellow man is to call him “Brother.” Whence people of the region work on the peace and refuse to follow those who corrupt their minds, development of the region would take place and efforts in this direction is on the rise. The peace in the Tigray region holds and the Somali government has never used force to disrupt life in Somaliland which pronounces in no unclear terms that it wants to secede from the rest of Somalia. Peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea is holding and improving, and discussions are underway to improve relationships of Djibouti and Eritrea.

The region is on the move to create an integrated economic infrastructures and hopefully this should build peace further. Coordination among the governments of the region on many fronts is on the rise and common approaches to common problems are being constantly emphasized. Recent visits to Mogadishu of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and President Ismail Omar Guelleh and President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud’s visits to both Djibouti and Eritrea is a clear indication that an integrated approach to the region’s problems is on the rise.

A favorable ecosystem involving improved security and peace should assist in the development of the region and its potential resources whether subsoil or above soil. It is clear that the states of the region realize that the enclosures in the form of boundaries set by the old European colonialism is no longer necessary and people should be able to trade with each other across these false boundaries and travel to each other and allow goods to move from one part to another in the region. All these activities are on the rise and improving year after year. 

The Horn of Africa States consisting of its four SEED states is on the move to create an integrated region with a free trade, customs union, common market and eventually with a monetary union. It is not a farfetched possibility and would be a powerful tool to help the building of regional peace and national peace within each state of the region and, hence development in all aspects of life be it healthcare systems, education, economic and/or social. The Horn of Africa States should contribute to the wellbeing of the world in the not too distant future through reduction and elimination of its own problems first, followed by helping others, such as the EAC countries of DR Congo and South Sudan, achieve the same.

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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