Somalia Society and Economy

By | December 15, 2021

Population and society

Somali society is divided into groups on the basis of a principle of clan affiliation, which draws a picture of complex genealogies united by the marriage bond. Historically the clans are distinguished between those dedicated to nomadic pastoralism (Daarood, Hawiiye, Dir) and those of farmers, in the region between the Juba and Scebelle rivers (Rahanwayn), which are considered by the former to be of lower social status. In addition to some communities of Bantu origin in Benadir, minorities of Indian and Arab-Yemeni origin live in the capital and in the other main coastal cities of the south, testifying to the ancient trafficking of the Somali peninsula.

The Somali diaspora is one of the largest in the world, so much so that it is referred to as an ‘international Somalia’. The most important refugee communities live in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, the Scandinavian countries, but also the countries of the Persian Gulf, Yemen, South Africa and Egypt. The famine that hit the Horn of Africa and in particular Somalia in the second half of 2011, combined with the continuing conflict, has pushed around one million people to take refuge in neighboring countries. In August 2014, the United Nations launched a new humanitarian alarm following the worsening of the food crisis in the country, which could lead to the outbreak of a new famine.

The official languages ​​of Somalia are Somali in its three variants (encoded and written in Latin characters since 1972) and Arabic. The population is very young: more than 45% are under the age of 15. Except for a very small percentage of Christians (1-2%), Somalis are Sunni Muslims. The evolution of local Islam, largely linked to Sufism, began during the 1950s under the influence of Egypt: it led to the current strong internationalization and radicalization, on the wave of an openly anti-Sufi or a- Sufi, which constitutes the background of the Salafist Islamist groups (al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam). For Somalia society, please check

Economy, energy and environment

Somalia was one of the poorest countries in the world well before the start of the civil war and the collapse of economic and financial institutions. The economy was and remains heavily dependent on international aid, while remittances from the diaspora increased proportionally to the worsening of the conflict, becoming the first item in order of magnitude of the GDP (20%). In the absence of a stable institutional context, economic relations have been reorganized through informal logics, in some cases even very sophisticated, which favor the flourishing of corrupt systems. Somalia has been at the top of the ranking of the most corrupt countries in the world for years, along with Afghanistan and North Korea. In November 2013, economist Yussur Abrar, the first woman to hold a high office as governor of the central bank, resigned, leaving the country and denouncing the flourishing of corruption within institutions.

Services have seen increasing expansion in branches such as banking, telephony and transportation. Somalia is one of the countries with the lowest telephone rates in the world, also due to the competition between different operators. Money transfer services are multiplying as a result of technological improvement, even as the UK is developing stricter rules for the control of direct mailings to Somalia, to limit money laundering and the use of these channels for illicit trafficking. and for the financing of terrorism.

Much of the Somali economy continues to be linked to nomadic pastoralism in the north and agriculture in the south, mostly subsistence, with the important exception of banana growing. Agricultural productivity collapsed due to war and, paradoxically, international food aid, which ended up distorting market mechanisms and discouraging local production. Livestock, in particular camels and sheep, represent one of the largest exported goods (50%) and contribute 40% of the GDP. In August 2014, Saudi Arabia threatened to ban the import of camels, fearing that they might be carriers of Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome. Should the ban come into force in the future, the Somali economy would be severely affected. Other goods for export are tanned hides, coal, recycled metal. In recent years, the production of khat has grown dramatically, as this cultivation has become legal again. However, importing this plant from Ethiopia severely limits the income of local growers. Fishing, which had an important place before the civil war, has given way to the more profitable piracy, also justified as a reaction to the invasion of Western and Asian fishing vessels.

Small manufacturing businesses continued to operate in fits and starts during the war, as was the case with companies related to food processing and basic consumer goods (soap and detergents, plastic bags and beverages). In 2004, a bottling company depositary of the official Coca Cola brand opened a plant in Mogadishu and has struggled through the events of recent years. In 2013 Coca Cola opened a plant in Somaliland.

Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen, Qatar and India are Somalia’s major trading partners, thanks to the consolidated channels of the diaspora and the reconstruction of the ports of Berbera and Bosaso. The port of Djibouti and that of Mombasa in Kenya have constituted, and in part still constitute, alternative commercial hubs for the north and south of the country in relation to the conflict. Since the years of Italian cooperation, there have been suspicious trafficking between Italy and Somalia, especially of hazardous or toxic waste. With the outbreak of the civil war, tons of waste were disposed of out of control or thrown into the sea a short distance from the coast. In addition to serious damage to the environment, the health of the population is also threatened.

Finally, the gradual stabilization of portions of Somali territory is favoring a growth in the interest of international investors in the energy sector, which would allow them to exploit the gas and oil potential.

Somalia Society