By Dr. Suleiman Walhad
May 15th, 2023
Africa in general suffers from several ills, some of them its own making others imposed on the continent by forces from beyond. The Horn of Africa States region, being part of the continent suffers from the same ills and more. We know that there is a high cost of trade, high interest rates for borrowings from outside the region, problems in governance and lack of consensus thereof, low savings and inability to collect scattered domestic funds in the region, and lack of sufficient data collection in the continent and region. The Horn of Africa is further marked as a conflicted region where wars and civil disruptions continue to derail every developmental project. Indeed, the region cannot just breath regularly.
Despite all these negative aspects, the region and continent remain prodding forward, increasing its population, growing its economy and, indeed, producing some of the fastest economic growth rates lately in some parts of the continent and the region. In this respect, one must note the high annual economic growth of Ethiopia and Djibouti of over 6% and indeed, poor Somalia’s economic growth of some 3% in the recent past. This could continue or be disrupted by the continually developing problems in the region and around it.
The Sudan conflict would probably affect the Horn of Africa States region more than any other, as it maintains borders with two of the region’s countries, Ethiopia and Eritrea. President Isais Afwerki of Eritrea recently noted that the insecurities that could come from Sudan could be harmful to the Horn of Africa region. He further noted that these insecurities should not be taken lightly.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed was also adamant in an article he penned and published in the Africa Report on February 12, 2021, that “Ethiopia’s current foreign policy is premised on a belief that closer regional integration benefits all.”
Despite the large array of problems of the region, some major and some minor, it needs to move forward. One thing should, however, be clear to the ruling and opposition parties of the region and the public in general. It is that the single state approach is no longer functional in the face of the challenges coming from the increasing number of economic and security blocs around the world. It is why, the states of the region need to make a real reassessment of matters, with a view to moving towards the construction of a regional approach to issues that concern all of them including dealing with external partners on issues of trade, debts, peace and security, investments and so on.
They should also be looking at regional issues including improving internal trade and easing tariffs, transportation, banking and finance, movement of goods and services and labor, cultural collaboration and other aspects of importance to the region.
The region currently suffers from lack of consensus on governance, which weakens not only the individual states but also the whole region. It would be better for each country and region that governance is strengthened and loyalty to the nation states and region be developed through conferences and summits and general media-wide approach to reduce tensions exploited by the unscrupulous and the foreigner.
The governments of the region should be working together on this matter with the objective of improving the capacity of each state to address conflicts within. Collaborating with each other would help in strengthening and smoothing governance in the region. This should be achieved through regular meetings and summits of the leaders of the region and/or their ministries.
Interconnected transportation and other infrastructures among the four SEED states would play a key role in developing closer relations not only among the governance institutions but also among the people of the region. The states of the region would need to work on institutions that support such collaboration. Nothing in life comes on its own. It is achieved through effort and will.
Fields of cooperation should involve banking and finance, commerce, agriculture, mining, marine exploitation, tourism and industrial production of not only consumer goods but also equipment and capital goods. The Horn of Africa States region is geostrategically important for the world and its leadership should realize the heavy responsibilities on their shoulders. They should be working on its stability and wellbeing.