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The Horn of Africa States Development Prospects (Part II)

By Dr. Suleiman Walhad
March 24th, 2023

The Horn of Africa States as defined in the previous articles has a large growing population of some 157 million people, most of whom are in Ethiopia (some 120 million) followed by Somalia (some 30 million), Eritrea (6 million) and Djibouti (one million) and a huge geographic space of some 2.8 million square kilometers, including its maritime exclusive economic exploitation zone of about 852,000 square kilometres.

The large populations which were mostly rural in the past are on the move to urban centers and most of the cities of the region accommodate large numbers of people, young, middle age and old. Over sixty percent is now urbanized. Some of the larger centers accommodate millions such as Addis Ababa with some six million people, Mogadishu with some 3.5 million people and Hargeisa with a population of some one million . Other larger concentrations of people include Kismayo, Beled Hawo, Baidoa, Merka, Beledweyne, Dhusamareb, Galkayo, Garowe, Bossaso, Burao, and Borama in Somalia. There are equally larger population centres in Ethiopia including Jima, Hadama, Bahr Dar, Mekelle, Jigjiga, Dire Dawa, Awasa, Harar and many others. In Eritrea, one also finds big urban centers such as Assab, Massawa and of course Asmara the capital, and Nakfa and others. In Djibouti the capital city of Djibouti is complemented by Tadjoura and Obokh, Ali Sabieh and Dikhil.

This large population and these large urban centers are not fed by the international community as they make people to believe. The large populations in these centers and others all enjoy reasonable health care, reasonably good education and many other services like any other population anywhere in the world. Yet the reports on the Horn of Africa States emphasize poverty as the main theme on the region, followed by instability and weak governance infrastructures. This large population eat and sleep and enjoy the bounties of earth like any other population anywhere but also enjoy an extremely good weather, which is not marked by extremes of heat and cold or extreme dryness and flooding and wetness.

The region produces its own food and is generally marked as the first place where humanity settled due to the prevalence of reasonable food and good weather in the region. The region tamed many animals including the camel and the black headed Somali sheep, which is not found anywhere else in the world. They also enjoy native grains such as the teff and other plant foods such as the enset and discovered the most common beverage in the world, coffee.

Classical economists use the traditional measuring tools such as the per capita income or the gross national product and other indexes that are based on recorded information. However, when there are no records, how does one assign false numbers to regions and then claim that these are the indexes of a region and then compare it with others where records as they see them are more complete. This, in our view, is misleading and portrays either ignorance or other intended goals.

We know that education facilities from elementary to higher education institutions is growing in the region. There are more institutions of higher learning than there ever was and would have grown by over a thousand times. We also know that there are more hospitals and clinics and other health facilities in the region than there ever was in the past and all are still growing and improving. Nearly every major conglomeration has a number of institutions of higher learning ad several hospitals.

We also know that the region’s infrastructure is improving and now includes better macadamized roads and even better rail than the past. We also know that there many ports that have improved over the past thirty years such as those of Berbera, Kismayo, Marka, Mogadishu, Bossaso, Djibouti, Massawa and Asmara and there are new ports that are joining the old ones such as Gara’ad on the Indian Ocean. We know that there are new road infrastructures that are continually joining the old ones and we know that the region enjoys some of the most advanced telecommunication networks in Africa, where costs are also far below many developed and developing countries. Indeed, the financial system in parts of the region such as Somalia is almost digital and electronic and does not involve paper money at all in the majority of transactions.

The fact there are droughts in some parts is not evidence that the region is poor. On the contrary, it is rich and there are hardly any homeless populations, for the nature of society is different from those of other countries. It is a region where the family infrastructure is still strong and where each family looks after its own. One would encounter well dressed people in coffee shops, who have probably slept in very good steads and looks well fed, but who does not work or is unemployed. This is because the family in these parts of the Horn of Africa States plays the role of governments in other countries, who must feed, cloth and shelter the underprivileged. Many countries do not even do that, and often the family in these states goes way beyond the immediate family and would involve the clan and distant cousins and relatives.

The traditional methods of measuring the state of peoples’ lives cannot, therefore, be applied to the Horn of Africa States region and the inequalities as measured by human development indexes as in the west only provide wrong information to those who make decisions affecting the lives of many people they really do not know how they live.

The population of the region is growing and over seventy per cent represent youth that are below thirty years of age. This remains one of the main assets of the region, which is expected to contribute to the development of the region. This demographic dividend is hardly mentioned in the positive sense in many of the writings on the region, which appears to be serving those who collect funds in the name of supposedly poor people of the region, which never reaches them anyway – the non-governmental organizations that thrive on providing unexplainable bleak reports on the region.



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