Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Somalia, a 'failed state' that functions

All that we hear and see in the press about Somalia is very depressing. However, Somalians enjoy one thing most people around the world don't have to deal with, bureaucracy. Somalia officially has no government, so one doesn't have to deal with the bureaucracy that comes with a government. When Somalia had a government there were many state owned enterprises that were monopolies, today you have many competitors in several industries.

There is no functioning national grid so entrepreneurs provide electricity on a local basis using generators bought from overseas. Wireless providers don't need to worry about buying a license to operate a Mobile network, because there is no government! In late 80's the national air carrier operated just one airplane and only a few routes. Today the airline sector has 15 firms, many aircraft, and more routes than before.

Many reading this would ask, "how is the law operated"? Disputes are settled at the clan/tribe level, by traditional systems run by elders. Security is handled by each local city itself, and it is paid by it's citizens.


  1. Nii:

    This is very original thinking, I like your analysis.

    Great work, Cheetah!

  2. You might be interested in this short note, and in an online discussion I organized a while back on Somalia and how a private entreprenuerial class has been able to thrive despite the absence of a state.



    (Just click on "view the discussion")

  3. Well, goes to show that some make due with little resources. Somalia is an interesting topic because of the history and conflict that country has endured. However, if this country wants to see more development it will need to adopt a traditional government that has a rule of law to attract capital.

    Nubian Cheetah

  4. Speaking of the history and the conflict the land of Punt has at least 3 to 4K years worth of recorded history. The people of Punt or modern day Somalia are said to be the predecessors of ancient Egypt. Things looked somewhat peaceful until the 1400 or 1500's. But interestingly, throughout all of this the coastal and southern areas of the country have since then been regarded as having very astute traders and merchants.

    This is a good post, Nii. That business thrives without a formal state is amazing, but that history that you alluded to also seems to make it a lot harder to stem some of the other events that are taking place there. I wonder what our friend Professor George Ayittey would say about this...

    Also, Nii please contact me at beninmwangi at gmail dot com.


  5. Not clear that a government is needed to have the rule of law. If a clan wants capital, it need only demonstrate that it will respect the property rights of the capitalist. If a wise leader can construe his clan's xeer to include property rights, then they're golden.

    If you want to understand how Somalia works, you have to understand their clan system. Not sure that a democractic government is compatible with clans.


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