Piracy an Important Source of Development Cash in Somalia

I’ve always been impressed by Somalia’s pirates. The country is a basket case in so many ways, but amid the insecurity and poverty they have managed to become world leaders in their field. And I’m not completely joking when I say they are a reminder that Somalia has an incredibly resourceful population that can overcome its chaotic clan-based rivalries when it wants to.

And now there’s a fascinating study of the economic impact of piracy on Somalia, produced for Chatham House, by Anja Shortland of Brunel University. She used satellite imagery to produce before-and-after comparisons of several of the main pirate lairs, such as Hobyo and Eyl. The pictures show how wealth is being spread around and invested in the sort of development that has long been missing from Somalia. While coastal villages may actually have not received as much as they would have liked, her conclusions on how to end the problem of piracy are worth remembering:

A negotiated solution to the piracy problem should aim to exploit local disappointment among coastal communities regarding the economic benefits from piracy and offer them an alternative that brings them far greater benefits than hosting pirates does. A military crack-down on the other hand would deprive one of the world’s poorest nations of an important source of income and aggravate poverty.

What this means for my long-forgotten prediction that Somali pirates would buy Djibouti and launch bid for 2020 Olympics is anyone’s guess…


2 thoughts on “Piracy an Important Source of Development Cash in Somalia

  1. The question in my mind is whether the rate of distribution of wealth is any worse (perhaps better) than under alternative regimes.

    Also, perhaps the thing to do is to send a copy of the Chatham House report to the pirates, who might take the hint and increase the rate of distribution of wealth in order to head off a negotiated settlement.

    Not that I am making light of the piracy, but it puts a new light on what that piracy actually amounts to when I read that wealth is spreading in the region.

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