Maritime business risk diverts world’s attention to Somalia


The entire capitalist world these days are now focus on Somalia for economic, security and political interests, with a number of high-level visits in the past few weeks signalling a renewed interest by the international community in the country that had been written off as a failed state.

Some of the representatives of this geopoplitical and capitalistic world are reknown figures who visited the country last month vis-a-vis British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Gutterres, and the new African Union Commission chair Moussa Faki Mahamat, who made Somalia his first stop only four days after inauguration.

The country strategically is attracting fresh attention from traditional allies, as well as newcomers from the Middle East, Europe and Africa. Some of these countries include the United Kingdom, former colonial power Italy, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Ethiopia as well as the African Union, and the traditional seafarers in the Indian Ocean such China, the Philippines, Japan and India.

Experts have therefore come up with some factor that could have led to this. And they include the recent successful presidential election that saw Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo take up the leadership; the country’s strategic location along the world’s most important shipping route, the war in Yemen and the resurgence of piracy in the Indian Ocean.

Political risk analyst for Middle East and North Africa, James Pothecary, told The EastAfrican that a leading factor in the increasing importance of Somalia is the war in Yemen and how it impacts the Bab el-Mandeb Strait.

The Bab el-Mandeb Strait is located between Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula and Djibouti and Eritrea in the Horn of Africa. It connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden

The strait is the gateway to almost all maritime trade between Europe and Asia and any security threats in this location would disproportionally affect global maritime trade routes and the security of sea lines of communication, said Mr Pothecary, who works for Allan & Associates in UK.

“As maritime shipping is approximately 90 per cent of how the world’s goods are transported, interference at these choke points is a serious threat to international business which in the case of the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, is worth an approximated $700 billion annually,” he said.

All traffic through the Suez Canal, the quickest route for European shipping to reach Asia, must pass through Bab el-Mandeb to reach the Gulf of Aden, and subsequently the Indian Ocean.

Recent report gathered indicates that last month alone, 1,454,000 tonnes of shipping, carried on 80,495 vessels, transited the Suez Canal. But since its narrowest point of Bab el-Mandeb is only 29km across, even small craft launched by Houthis from the Yemeni coast are capable of reaching all traffic passing through it.

This has forced ships to sail closer to the Somalia coast, hence the renewed interest in Somalia.

On his first official trip abroad since his election, President Farmajo flew to Riyadh, where he met king of Saudi Arabia Salman Bin Abdulaziz and where the two discussed the issue of Houthi rebels and plans by United Arab Emirates to set up a military base in the port of Berbera in the breakaway Somaliland, a self-declared independent state that has been peaceful since the end of civil war in 1995.

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