Innovation/Global Risk

 Somalia: A Success Story We Never Read or See

By Shlomo  Maital  



Ahmed Silanyo, Somaliland President

  There is a strong and growing media bias toward reporting disaster /pain/famine/catastrophe and away from ‘good news’.  Once the Christian Science Monitor tried to report mainly good news, and today all that remains is a moribund web site. 

   Perhaps that is why the successes in Somalia (Somalia???) go largely unreported. Did you know that “Somalis enjoy one of the cheapest and most modern mobile phone networks in Africa” (Alex de Waal, Global NYT Feb. 22), because it has a self-regulated booming private sector.  Sure, the central Transitional Govt. is corrupt.  But, well, where isn’t it?  And besides, people just ignore it.  It exists only in a part of the capital city.

    The most successful part of Somalia is in the north, “far from the international community’s gaze”.  There, the Republic of Somaliland exists. This is a breakaway part of Somalia, not officially recognized by other nations, but a well-functioning democratic state with a wise leader.  Like Slovenia, which broke away from Yugoslavia before the ethnic strife, in 1991, Somaliland saw the chaos and decided not to join it.   There have been two regime changes there, peaceful  and democratic, one in 2003 and another in 2010.   Somaliland has its own, stable currency, the Somaliland shilling.  Its area is huge – larger than England.   Its population is only 3.5 million and many Somaliland residents make their living by herding livestock, although tourism is also booming. 

    And the West?  It sees Somalia only as a basket-case and home for terrorism. Western governments focus on piracy and the Shabab terrorists, even though they have now retreated from Mogadishu, which is relatively quiet and stable.  And the media too follow knee-jerk journalism, reporting mainly on the preconceived notion of Somalia synonymous with terror.    

   Somalia represents the triumph of human resilience.  Where democracy and central governments became corrupt and create failed states, people bounce back, fight to earn a living and build systems that replace those of failed governments.  Once again, Western governments see Somalia through distorted lenses, fail to do their homework, and focus only on aspects that affect their well-fed behinds, the terrorists.   And the media play into this. 

   Tomorrow British PM David Cameron will call an international  conference on Somalia. The focus?  Drones, ships, anti-piracy, anti-terror…and yes, money for the corrupt failed Transitional Government in Mogadishu.  “It won’t work,” says de Waal.

  •  Alex de Waal. “Getting Somalia right this time”  Global NYT Feb. 22.