About  |   Contact  |  Mongabay on Facebook  |  Mongabay on Twitter  |  Subscribe
Rainforests | Tropical fish | Environmental news | For kids | Madagascar | Photos


Mongabay.com seeks to raise interest in and appreciation of wild lands and wildlife, while examining the impact of emerging trends in climate, technology, economics, and finance on conservation and development (more)


Somalia Index



Herd of cattle and flock of goats at watering hole north of Chisimayu; such animals represent a major Somali export
Courtesy Hiram A. Ruiz

Mahammad Siad Barre legitimated his 1969 coup d'├ętat in terms of the national economic malaise. On October 20, 1970, the first anniversary of the coup, he announced:

In our Revolution we believe that we have broken the chain of a consumer economy based on imports, and we are free to decide our destiny. And in order to realize the interests of the Somali people, their achievement of a better life, the full development of their potentialities and the fulfillment of their aspirations, we solemnly declare Somalia to be a Socialist State.

Relying on Soviet advisers and a committed group of Italianeducated Somali "leftist" intellectuals, Siad Barre announced the 1971-73 Three-Year Plan (see Siad Barre and Scientific Socialism , ch. 1). The plan emphasized a higher standard of living for every Somali, jobs for all who sought work, and the eradication of capitalist exploitation. Agricultural "crash programs" and creation of new manufacturing plants were the immediate results.

Siad Barre quickly brought a substantial proportion of the modern economy under state control. The government nationalized banks, insurance companies, petroleum distribution firms, and the sugar-refining plant and created national agencies for construction materials and foodstuffs. Although the Somali neologism for socialism, hantiwadaag, could be translated as the "sharing of livestock," camel herds were not nationalized, and Siad Barre reassured pastoralists that hantiwadaag would not affect their animals. To mollify international business, in 1972 Siad Barre announced a liberal investment code. Because the modern economy was so small, nationalization was more showmanship than a radical change in the economy.

The creation of cooperatives soon became a cornerstone in building a socialist economy. In 1973 the government decreed the Law on Cooperative Development, with most funds going into the agricultural sector. In the precoup years, agricultural programs had received less than 10 percent of total spending. By 1974 the figure was 29.1 percent. The investment in cooperatives had limited long-term results, however. In Galole near Hargeysa, for example, a government team established a cooperative in 1973, and government funds helped purchase a tractor, a cooperative center, and a grain storage tank. Members received token salaries as well. But in July 1977, with the beginning of the Ogaden War, state involvement in Galole ended; by 1991 the cooperative was no longer in operation.

Cooperatives also aimed at the nomad, although on a smaller scale. The 1974-78 Development Plan allocated only 4.2 percent of the budgeted funds to livestock. Government officials argued that the scientific management of rangeland--the regeneration of grazing lands and the drilling of new water holes--would be possible only under socialist cooperation. In the fourteen government-established cooperatives, each family received an exclusive area of 200 to 300 hectares of grazing land; in times of drought, common land under reserve was to become available. The government committed itself to providing educational and health services as well as serving as a marketing outlet for excess stock. Neither agricultural nor fishing cooperatives, however, proved economically profitable.

Integrated agricultural development projects were somewhat more successful than the cooperatives. The Northwest Region Agricultural Development Project, for example, survived the 1980s. Building upon the bunding (creation of embankments to control the flow of water) done by the British in the 1950s and by the United States Agency for International Development (AID) in the 1960s, the World Bank (see Glossary) picked up the program in the 1970s and 1980s. Yields from bunded farms increased between 2.40 and 13.74 quintals per hectare over the yields from unbunded farms. However, overall improvement in agricultural production was hardly noticeable at a macroeconomic level (see table 2, Appendix).

Somalia's rural-based socialist programs attracted international development agencies. The Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED), AID, and the FAO participated first in the Northern Rangelands Development Project in 1977 and in the Central Rangelands Project in 1979. These projects called for rotating grazing areas, using reserves, and creating new boreholes, but the drought of 1974 and political events undid most efforts.

During 1974-75 a drought devastated the pastoral economy. Major General Husseen Kulmiye headed the National Drought Relief Committee, which sought relief aid from abroad, among other programs. By January 1975, China, the United States, the European Economic Community, the Soviet Union, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, Sudan, Algeria, Yugoslavia, Yemen, and others had pledged 66,229 tons of grain, 1,155 tons of milk powder, and tons of other food products. Later that year, with aid from the Soviet Union, the government transported about 90,000 nomads from their hamlets to agricultural and fishing cooperatives in the south. The regime established new agricultural cooperatives at Dujuuma on the Jubba River (about 18,000 hectares), Kurtun Waareycnear the Shabelle River (about 6,000 hectares), and Sablaale northwest of Chisimayu (about 6,000 hectares). The KFAED and the World Bank supported irrigation projects in these cooperatives, in which corn, beans, peanuts, and rice were planted. Because the government provided seeds, water, management, health facilities, and schools, as well as workers' salaries, the farms were really state-owned farms rather than cooperatives. Essentially, they became havens for women and children because after the drought the men went off inland with whatever money they had accumulated to buy livestock to replenish their stock of animals.

The government also established fishing cooperatives. Despite a long coastline and an estimated potential yield of 150,000 tons per year of all species of fish, in the early 1970s fishing accounted for less than 1 percent of Somalia's gross domestic product ( GDP--see Glossary). In 1975 cooperatives were established at Eyl, a post in the Nugaal region; Cadale, a port 1200 kilometers northeast of Mogadishu; and Baraawe. The Soviet Union supplied modern trawlers; when Soviet personnel left Somalia in 1978, Australia and Italy supported these fishing projects. Despite their potential and broad-based international support, these cooperatives failed to become profitable.

Siad Barre emphasized the great economic successes of the socialist experiment, a claim that had some truth in the first five years of the revolution. In this period, the government reorganized the sole milk-processing plant to make it more productive; established tomato-canning, wheat flour, pasta, cigarette, and match factories; opened a plant that manufactured cardboard boxes and polyethylene bags; and established several grain mills and a petroleum refinery. In addition, the state put into operation a meat-processing plant in Chisimayu, as well as a fish-processing factory in Laas Qoray northeast of Erigavo. The state worked to expand sugar operations in Giohar and to build a new sugar-processing facility in Afgooye. In three of the four leading light industries--canned meats, milk, and textiles--there were increases in output between 1969 and 1975.

Progress in the early socialist period was not uniform, however. The government heralded various programs in the transport, packaging, irrigation, drainage, fertilization, and spraying of the banana crop. Yet, despite the boom year of 1972, banana exports declined.

BackgroundBritain withdrew from British Somaliland in 1960 to allow its protectorate to join with Italian Somaliland and form the new nation of Somalia. In 1969, a coup headed by Mohamed SIAD Barre ushered in an authoritarian socialist rule that managed to impose a degree of stability in the country for a couple of decades. After the regime's collapse early in 1991, Somalia descended into turmoil, factional fighting, and anarchy. In May 1991, northern clans declared an independent Republic of Somaliland that now includes the administrative regions of Awdal, Woqooyi Galbeed, Togdheer, Sanaag, and Sool. Although not recognized by any government, this entity has maintained a stable existence and continues efforts to establish a constitutional democracy, including holding municipal, parliamentary, and presidential elections. The regions of Bari, Nugaal, and northern Mudug comprise a neighboring self-declared autonomous state of Puntland, which has been self-governing since 1998 but does not aim at independence; it has also made strides toward reconstructing a legitimate, representative government but has suffered some civil strife. Puntland disputes its border with Somaliland as it also claims portions of eastern Sool and Sanaag. Beginning in 1993, a two-year UN humanitarian effort (primarily in the south) was able to alleviate famine conditions, but when the UN withdrew in 1995, having suffered significant casualties, order still had not been restored. A two-year peace process, led by the Government of Kenya under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), concluded in October 2004 with the election of Abdullahi YUSUF Ahmed as President of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia and the formation of an interim government, known as the Somalia Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs). The TFIs included a 275-member parliamentary body, known as the Transitional Federal Assembly (TFA). President YUSUF resigned late in 2008 while United Nations-sponsored talks between the TFG and the opposition Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) were underway in Djibouti. In January 2009, following the creation of a TFG-ARS unity government, Ethiopian military forces, which had entered Somalia in December 2006 to support the TFG in the face of advances by the opposition Council of Islamic Courts (CIC), withdrew from the country. The TFA was increased to 550 seats with the addition of 200 ARS and 75 civil society members of parliament. The expanded parliament elected Sheikh SHARIF Sheikh Ahmed, the former CIC and ARS chairman as president on 31 January 2009, in Djibouti. Subsequently, President SHARIF appointed Omar Abdirashid ali SHARMARKE, son of a former president of Somalia, as prime minister on 13 February 2009. The TFIs are based on the Transitional Federal Charter (TFC), which outlines a five-year mandate leading to the establishment of a new Somali constitution and a transition to a representative government following national elections. However, in January 2009 the TFA amended the TFC to extend TFG's mandate until 2011. While its institutions remain weak, the TFG continues to reach out to Somali stakeholders and work with international donors to help build the governance capacity of the TFIs and work toward national elections in 2011.
LocationEastern Africa, bordering the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, east of Ethiopia
Area(sq km)total: 637,657 sq km
land: 627,337 sq km
water: 10,320 sq km
Geographic coordinates10 00 N, 49 00 E
Land boundaries(km)total: 2,340 km
border countries: Djibouti 58 km, Ethiopia 1,600 km, Kenya 682 km

Coastline(km)3,025 km

Climateprincipally desert; northeast monsoon (December to February), moderate temperatures in north and hot in south; southwest monsoon (May to October), torrid in the north and hot in the south, irregular rainfall, hot and humid periods (tangambili) between monsoons

Elevation extremes(m)lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: Shimbiris 2,416 m
Natural resourcesuranium and largely unexploited reserves of iron ore, tin, gypsum, bauxite, copper, salt, natural gas, likely oil reserves
Land use(%)arable land: 1.64%
permanent crops: 0.04%
other: 98.32% (2005)

Irrigated land(sq km)2,000 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources(cu km)15.7 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)total: 3.29 cu km/yr (0%/0%/100%)
per capita: 400 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazardsrecurring droughts; frequent dust storms over eastern plains in summer; floods during rainy season
Environment - current issuesfamine; use of contaminated water contributes to human health problems; deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification
Environment - international agreementsparty to: Biodiversity, Desertification, Endangered Species, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - notestrategic location on Horn of Africa along southern approaches to Bab el Mandeb and route through Red Sea and Suez Canal
note: this estimate was derived from an official census taken in 1975 by the Somali Government; population counting in Somalia is complicated by the large number of nomads and by refugee movements in response to famine and clan warfare (July 2009 est.)
Age structure(%)0-14 years: 45% (male 2,215,331/female 2,204,503)
15-64 years: 52.6% (male 2,588,356/female 2,579,737)
65 years and over: 2.5% (male 101,764/female 142,326) (2009 est.)
Median age(years)total: 17.5 years
male: 17.4 years
female: 17.6 years (2009 est.)
Population growth rate(%)2.815% (2009 est.)
Birth rate(births/1,000 population)43.7 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Death rate(deaths/1,000 population)15.55 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)

Net migration rate(migrant(s)/1,000 population)0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Urbanization(%)urban population: 37% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 4.2% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Sex ratio(male(s)/female)at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.72 male(s)/female
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
Infant mortality rate(deaths/1,000 live births)total: 109.19 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 118.31 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 99.79 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)

Life expectancy at birth(years)total population: 49.63 years
male: 47.78 years
female: 51.53 years (2009 est.)

Total fertility rate(children born/woman)6.52 children born/woman (2009 est.)
Nationalitynoun: Somali(s)
adjective: Somali
Ethnic groups(%)Somali 85%, Bantu and other non-Somali 15% (including Arabs 30,000)

Religions(%)Sunni Muslim
Languages(%)Somali (official), Arabic, Italian, English

Country nameconventional long form: none
conventional short form: Somalia
local long form: Jamhuuriyada Demuqraadiga Soomaaliyeed
local short form: Soomaaliya
former: Somali Republic, Somali Democratic Republic
Government typeno permanent national government; transitional, parliamentary federal government
Capitalname: Mogadishu
geographic coordinates: 2 04 N, 45 22 E
time difference: UTC+3 (8 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions18 regions (plural - NA, singular - gobolka); Awdal, Bakool, Banaadir, Bari, Bay, Galguduud, Gedo, Hiiraan, Jubbada Dhexe, Jubbada Hoose, Mudug, Nugaal, Sanaag, Shabeellaha Dhexe, Shabeellaha Hoose, Sool, Togdheer, Woqooyi Galbeed
Constitution25 August 1979, presidential approval 23 September 1979
note: the formation of transitional governing institutions, known as the Transitional Federal Government, is currently ongoing

Legal systemno national system; a mixture of English common law, Italian law, Islamic sharia, and Somali customary law; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations

Suffrage18 years of age; universal
Executive branchchief of state: Transitional Federal President Sheikh SHARIF Sheikh Ahmed (since 31 January 2009); note - a transitional governing entity with a five-year mandate, known as the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs), was established in October 2004; the TFIs relocated to Somalia in June 2004
head of government: Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali SHARMARKE (since 13 February 2009)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the prime minister and approved by the Transitional Federal Assembly
election results: Sheikh SHARIF Sheikh Ahmed was elected president by the expanded Transitional Federal Assembly in Djibouti

Legislative branchunicameral National Assembly
note: unicameral Transitional Federal Assembly (TFA) (550 seats; 475 members appointed according to the 4.5 clan formula, with the remaining 75 seats reserved for civil society and business persons)

Judicial branchfollowing the breakdown of the central government, most regions have reverted to local forms of conflict resolution, either secular, traditional Somali customary law, or Sharia (Islamic) law with a provision for appeal of all sentences

Political pressure groups and leadersother: numerous clan and sub-clan factions exist both in support and in opposition to the transitional government
Flag descriptionlight blue with a large white five-pointed star in the center; blue field influenced by the flag of the UN

Economy - overviewDespite the lack of effective national governance, Somalia has maintained a healthy informal economy, largely based on livestock, remittance/money transfer companies, and telecommunications. Agriculture is the most important sector, with livestock normally accounting for about 40% of GDP and about 65% of export earnings. Nomads and semi-pastoralists, who are dependent upon livestock for their livelihood, make up a large portion of the population. Livestock, hides, fish, charcoal, and bananas are Somalia's principal exports, while sugar, sorghum, corn, qat, and machined goods are the principal imports. Somalia's small industrial sector, based on the processing of agricultural products, has largely been looted and sold as scrap metal. Somalia's service sector also has grown. Telecommunication firms provide wireless services in most major cities and offer the lowest international call rates on the continent. In the absence of a formal banking sector, money transfer/remittance services have sprouted throughout the country, handling roughly $2 billion in remittances annually. Mogadishu's main market offers a variety of goods from food to the newest electronic gadgets. Hotels continue to operate and are supported with private-security militias. Somalia's arrears to the IMF continued to grow in 2008. Statistics on Somalia's GDP, growth, per capita income, and inflation should be viewed skeptically.
GDP (purchasing power parity)$5.524 billion (2008 est.)
$5.387 billion (2007 est.)
$5.252 billion (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate)$2.6 billion (2008 est.)
GDP - real growth rate(%)2.6% (2008 est.)
2.6% (2007 est.)
2.6% (2006 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP)$600 (2008 est.)
$600 (2007 est.)
$600 (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector(%)agriculture: 65%
industry: 10%
services: 25% (2005 est.)
Labor force3.447 million (few skilled laborers) (2007)

Labor force - by occupation(%)agriculture: 71%
industry and services: 29% (1975)
Unemployment rate(%)NA%
Population below poverty line(%)NA%
Household income or consumption by percentage share(%)lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Budgetrevenues: $NA
expenditures: $NA
Inflation rate (consumer prices)(%)NA%
note: businesses print their own money, so inflation rates cannot be easily determined

Economic aid - recipient$236.4 million (2005 est.)

Agriculture - productsbananas, sorghum, corn, coconuts, rice, sugarcane, mangoes, sesame seeds, beans; cattle, sheep, goats; fish
Industriesa few light industries, including sugar refining, textiles, wireless communication

Industrial production growth rate(%)NA%

Exports$300 million (2006)

Exports - commodities(%)livestock, bananas, hides, fish, charcoal, scrap metal
Exports - partners(%)UAE 56.2%, Yemen 21%, Saudi Arabia 3.6% (2008)
Imports$798 million (2006)

Imports - commodities(%)manufactures, petroleum products, foodstuffs, construction materials, qat
Imports - partners(%)Djibouti 29.2%, India 11.9%, Kenya 7.6%, US 6%, Oman 5.6%, UAE 5.5%, Yemen 4.7% (2008)

Debt - external$3 billion (2001 est.)

Exchange ratesSomali shillings (SOS) per US dollar - NA (2007-08), 1,438.3 (2006) official rate; the unofficial black market rate was about 23,000 shillings per dollar as of February 2007
note: the Republic of Somaliland, a self-declared independent country not recognized by any foreign government, issues its own currency, the Somaliland shilling

Currency (code)Somali shilling (SOS)

Telephones - main lines in use100,000 (2008)
Telephones - mobile cellular627,000 (2008)
Telephone systemgeneral assessment: the public telecommunications system was almost completely destroyed or dismantled during the civil war; private companies offer limited local fixed-line service and private wireless companies offer service in most major cities while charging the lowest international rates on the continent
domestic: local cellular telephone systems have been established in Mogadishu and in several other population centers
international: country code - 252; international connections are available from Mogadishu by satellite (2001)
Internet country code.so
Internet users102,000 (2008)
Airports59 (2009)
Roadways(km)total: 22,100 km
paved: 2,608 km
unpaved: 19,492 km (2000)

Ports and terminalsBerbera, Kismaayo
Military branchesno national-level armed forces (2008)
Manpower available for military servicemales age 16-49: 2,181,050
females age 16-49: 2,125,558 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military servicemales age 16-49: 1,301,026
females age 16-49: 1,351,649 (2009 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annuallymale: 93,763
female: 93,738 (2009 est.)
Military expenditures(% of GDP)0.9% of GDP (2005 est.)
Disputes - internationalEthiopian forces invaded southern Somalia and routed Islamist Courts from Mogadishu in January 2007; "Somaliland" secessionists provide port facilities in Berbera to landlocked Ethiopia and have established commercial ties with other regional states; "Puntland" and "Somaliland" "governments" seek international support in their secessionist aspirations and overlapping border claims; the undemarcated former British administrative line has little meaning as a political separation to rival clans within Ethiopia's Ogaden and southern Somalia's Oromo region; Kenya works hard to prevent the clan and militia fighting in Somalia from spreading south across the border, which has long been open to nomadic pastoralists

Refugees and internally displaced personsIDPs: 1.1 million (civil war since 1988, clan-based competition for resources) (2007)
Electricity - production(kWh)280 million kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - production by source(%)fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption(kWh)260.4 million kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - exports(kWh)0 kWh (2008 est.)
Electricity - imports(kWh)0 kWh (2008 est.)
Oil - production(bbl/day)0 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - consumption(bbl/day)5,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - exports(bbl/day)1,475 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - imports(bbl/day)6,387 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - proved reserves(bbl)0 bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
Natural gas - production(cu m)0 cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - consumption(cu m)0 cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - exports(cu m)0 cu m (2008)
Natural gas - proved reserves(cu m)5.663 billion cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate(%)0.5% (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS24,000 (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths1,600 (2007 est.)
Major infectious diseasesdegree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A and E, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever, malaria, and Rift Valley fever
water contact disease: schistosomiasis
animal contact disease: rabies (2009)
Literacy(%)definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 37.8%
male: 49.7%
female: 25.8% (2001 est.)

Education expenditures(% of GDP)NA

Copyright mongabay 2000-2013