Foreign Interference Threatens Somalia’s Economic Diversification

Som/Turk
Somalia signs a historic security agreement with Turkey. | Photo: Villa Somalia FB

|Opinion

In discussions concerning Somalia, it has become cliche to preface with an acknowledgment of the country’s enduring struggle with prolonged conflicts spanning the past three decades. These conflicts, characterized by their complexity, have shaped how the world views Somalia. However, this sole focus on conflict has obscured the momentous efforts made by Somalia towards economic diversification, particularly through the exploration of its maritime resources.

For nearly three decades, Somalia’s maritime resources have faced numerous challenges, many of which have gone largely flouted. Despite being endowed with significant maritime territories; Somalia’s marine resources have not received adequate attention. This neglect is in part due to the overshadowing presence of internal conflicts, state building challenges, and counter-terrorism efforts, which have dominated the national and international discourse on Somalia.

Geographically positioned in a strategic and a critical position, Somalia has attracted a multitude of actors with varying interests, consequently making its waters a focal point for maritime activities. The Red Sea, with its vital trade routes and proximity to conflict-prone regions, has rendered Somalia’s maritime territories particularly susceptible to exploitation and external interference.

Over the decades, foreign vessels have illegally encroached upon Somalia’s waters, engaging in illicit fishing practices that further strain marine resources. Despite international regulations and laws prohibiting illegal fishing, enforcement mechanisms have been insufficient, allowing such activities to persist largely unimpeded. Additionally, porous maritime borders have facilitated the infiltration of terrorist organizations, utilizing clandestine routes for arms trafficking and other nefarious activities.

Ethiopia on the prowl
The most significant encroachment to date comes in the form of a direct annexation attempt by a neighbouring power.

The recent actions by the Ethiopian government have raised the issue of Somalia’s week maritime security to unprecedented levels. The signing of the MoU, an agreement which the Somali government regarded as an annexation and promises Ethiopia a 20 km square of seaports in exchange for recognition for the breakaway region of Somaliland, has ignited widespread outrage.

Despite fervent protests from Somalia’s government and resounding international condemnation, Ethiopia remains determined in its defiance, dismissing warning voices. The Ethiopian state appears to be advancing what many Somalis perceive as an expansionist agenda, driven by ambitious aims that disregard Somalia’s territorial integrity.

Ethiopia’s persistent disregard for diplomatic appeals underlines its commitment to furthering its perceived interests, even at the risk of escalating tensions and destabilizing the region.

Despite these challenges, Somalia has been making efforts to explore its maritime resources. However, the progress has been slow-paced. These efforts, though developing, are hindered by concerns, including maritime security and the infringement on the country’s territorial integrity, sovereignty, and political independence.

Economic diversification and bilateral agreements
The decades-long persistent conflicts in Somalia have led to widespread socio-environmental and economic challenges, exacerbating rampant poverty and economic insecurity. However, recent positive developments suggest a potential turning point, with progress in areas such as security reform, debt relief, and institutional reform.

At the forefront of Somalia’s strategic economic recovery is the blue economy, a sector teeming with potentials due to the nation’s abundant maritime resources. With the largest coastline on the continent, Somalia offers diverse opportunities ranging from fisheries and aquaculture to shipping and tourism, positioning it as a global trading hub.

Efforts to explore this sector have long been underway, driven by a vision of economic diversification and the recognition of the blue economy’s potential to ensure long-term economic and socio-environmental prosperity. In pursuit of this ambitious goal, the country has developed policies, including legal frameworks for maritime resources. As part of these strategic economic diversification, significant progress has also been made in the fishing sector through targeted investment promotion. The central aim is to enhance food security, create employment opportunities, and contribute to overall economic growth.

Substantial investments have been directed towards upgrading maritime infrastructure. Initiatives such as the enhancement of existing ports and the construction of modern facilities aimed at streamlining international trade, and attracting foreign investments have been made, thus promoting economic development.

Moreover, Somalia has employed diplomatic strategies to counter illegal maritime fishing and clandestine operations within its territorial waters. In response to Ethiopia’s provocative and undiplomatic manoeuvres, alongside the intensifying exploration of its marine resources, Somalia has entered a defence pact with its longstanding ally, Turkey.

The defence agreement with Turkey signifies a milestone in Somalia’s efforts to booster its maritime security capabilities. With this pact in effect, Somalia is positioned to fortify its defence infrastructure and enhance its capacity to combat unlawful activities within its maritime territory. Beyond its security ramifications, the partnership with Turkey also holds the potential to advance Somalia’s exploration of its blue economy. By securing its maritime boundaries and dissuading illicit undertakings, Somalia stands to establish a secure trade corridor aligned with its blue economy aspirations.

In conclusion, Somalia’s pursuit of economic diversification is inseparable from the safeguarding of its blue economy. Collaborative, diplomatic approaches from neighbouring countries are not just preferable but imperative for sustainable economic growth and regional stability. Reckless interventions risk not only derailing Somalia’s recovery but also pose threats to the shared interests of the region. This requires diplomatic engagement—one that respects national sovereignty, advances collaboration, and safeguards the common interest, ensuring a harmonious and prosperous future for all.


Gorfayn is an independent and non-partisan online publication that provides an in-depth analysis on Somali politics and public policy. Our aim is to have an informed citizenry. If you wish to write for us please email us your first draft at editor@gorfayn.org

Mahbub Mohamed Abdillahi
Mahbub Mohamed Abdillahi
Mahbub Mohamed Abdillahi is a lecturer, researcher, and independent environmental health and safety consultant. He’s also a staff writer at Gorfayn where he writes about environmental, climate change, social, and cultural issues.

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