Dr Suleiman Wahlad
Wednesday, September 12, 2018
This is part of an upcoming book I am working on. I thought it may be useful to present it today in view of the ongoing discussion on National Assets and the signing of contracts with foreign parties and the maneuverings of politicians as they come and go, sometimes signing away large parts of our territories (both land and maritime) and signing international contracts involving supposedly developmental activities, with very little understanding of the consequences. It is a blueprint of how I think the national assets and resources should be handled and managed in the future.
In the world of today, the economy is of utmost importance and this should be handled with great skill and adeptness. We are located in a very strategic location, where a large portion of the world’s trade passes through. We have also a very long coast and the adjoining maritime economic zone which stretches some 645 km into the Indian Ocean. Although not really, proven, huge hydrocarbon reserves are reported to be in our country both onshore and offshore. Other mineral resources are also mentioned including uranium, manganese, tin, iron ore and many others. The country also enjoys two riverine basins which could be a source of all our agricultural needs. The Somali Peninsula also owns one of the largest livestock populations in the world and supplies the Arabian Peninsula a major part of that region’s meat needs. There are many other assets, but one of the most important is a young and growing population, which if properly mobilized could be one of the most productive and entrepreneurial populations of the African continent.
To harness these assets for the good of our country, we propose the creation of a Somali National Economic Developmental Board (“SNEDB”). The SNEDB should be an institution empowered to manage the assets of the nation, so they become income generating resources of the country. The SNEDB would be managed through a board that is kept independent and at arm’s length from politicians who could do damage to the country without knowing that they have done so for minor political gains or for enriching themselves, just as they have done so far. We should avoid issues such as the so-called maritime dispute with Kenya, created by some of our irresponsible politicians, ever coming back.
The members of the board should be of the highest technical and intellectual calibre and should include a number of foreign experts, hired for their expertise and managerial skills. To attract the best calibre, the pay of these experts must be commensurate with their responsibilities and achievements. Such a pay compensation will reduce corruption and will attract the best talent.
The SNEDB will no doubt face a multitude of challenges such as our idiosyncratic politicians and our clan-mindedness. But the mission of the SNEDB will be to transform the Somali Peninsula and Somalia in particular into a truly first-rate, world-class region.
To achieve this, the SNEDB will have to seize opportunities in agriculture, tourism, healthcare, fishing, hydrocarbon resources and other minerals. The billions of tons of iron ore and coal could make Somalia a major iron and steel producing country, if the right minds were applied. We could also be a major hydrocarbon producer and exporter, which would move us from being a beggar nation to charity-giver and a donor nation, just as our forefathers used to do before the hydrocarbon industry took off in the Arabian Peninsula, when they used to pay Zakat to the Khaleeji Arabs.
The first stage of the SNEDB activities would be:
A. Listing all the current assets of the state left by previous governments including but not limited to lands, buildings, small scale industries or what is left of them for usage by current state organs and all other assets such as those agricultural projects as the “Jowhar Sugar Complex”, the “Mareeray Sugar Complex” and so on.
B. Identifying the best opportunities that the country has in terms of resources and prioritizing these resources for development.
C. Establishing general policy guidelines for the development of the resources of the country.
The second stage would be building up sectoral policies for these resources, which is in line with the general economic policy guidelines laid out by the SNEDB for the country, and the third stage would be implementing the resource development.
The SNEDB would be responsible for all matters related to licensing, which should be market oriented and based not only on the monetary value but also on the work program. The procedures, the discussions, the evaluations and decision making should all be transparent. Health, safety, the environment and security should be of prime importance for the SNEDB when implementing any of its projects.
In this blueprint, we would propose sub-platforms as follows:
1. A sub-platform for Energy Production responsible for the development of a hydrocarbon industry, a wind energy industry and a solar energy for the country. The Somali Peninsula is reportedly rich in hydrocarbon reserves. This includes oil and gas and coal. Wind energy is also an emerging source of power and the country is endowed with this resource, which needs to be developed. Solar energy would also be needed to be developed, and we can even think of developing ocean energy exploiting our Indian Ocean coastline as well as our Gulf of Aden coastline.
2. An agricultural sub-platform for developing the country’s agriculture. Food would be an important sector in the world in the future, and Africa and particularly countries such as Somalia would be looked at as a source of food for the Middle East and surrounding regions;
3. A tourism sub-platform to develop the long white beaches of the country to receive European and North Hemispheric peoples who would, no doubt, visit the country. This would require development of hotels and tourism resorts. A new and migrant or mobile population would thus be created, and this would be in the millions who would bring billions of dollars into our economy every year.
4. A healthcare sub-platform to serve and cater for the large number of people who would either be residents of the country or visitors staying for short periods such as their holidays or for seminars or speaking opportunities or conferences.
5. A ports development platform - We have a very long coast, perhaps the longest in Africa and as the manufacturing base of the world has moved to Asia, Somalia could be gateway for goods to enter Africa. This would require of us to develop ports along our coasts and roads and railways and even sky routes to Africa from these sea and air ports.
6. A fishing industry sub-platform responsible for the development of a fishing industry. We know we have a very long coast rich in marine life, yet our people die of hunger every so often. We are aware that our people are meat-eaters and very few of us in the coastal regions do eat fish. But developing this industry would be a game changer. Not only would export fish and other marine life, but we would also be able to popularise fish consumption in the country.
7. An educational sub-platform responsible for the development of education and, in particular, an education required for a highly developed technological society. The future is seen as robotic and would require people highly proficient in technology and computer sciences, able to design, develop and manage sophisticated industries of the future.
We know that Somalia’s economy, even though small, in the first place, was devastated and ravaged by wars, corruption, mismanagement and the shorted-ness of its politicians. We are told that the international community has spent billions of United States Dollars in the country over the past thirty odd years of civil war. We do not see anything that shows that such amounts have been spent in the country. Turning this situation around would not be an easy task for anyone, as the mother issue of all the problems of the country, namely a political overhaul of the country’s government system, seems to be an elusive goal. The political system remains a dark hole and the emergence of a new straight-forward, transparent, patriotic, courageous and skilled leadership, has not yet emerged. We would address this matter in a separate chapter.
In the past the country’s economy was a command economy dominated by the state. During the civil war, the private sector has taken over the management of the economy and it is fair to say that a command economy would not come back to Somalia, knowing that Somalis are generally very private individualistic people at the heart.
A stable environment is a prerequisite for the development of a successful economy and Somalis would have to grow away from the mindset that a group or groups can take over by force to rule the land. This is not possible anymore and the sooner the Somali walks down from that higher pedestal to walk with the rest, the better it would be for all. This would naturally be followed by a favorable business environment, as peace is established. A business environment would naturally lead to the establishment of rules and regulations that support the investor class and the business person through appropriate governance mechanisms.
In this regard, we propose that there should be clarity of vision and a dedication of the country’s leadership, be they political, traditional and business people. There should be long term planning and resistance to pressure groups and narrow interests, be they for tribal purposes or interest groups. A lean and efficient government system would be ideal for running a successful governing system. A bloated tribally-invested government as the case is today, would continue to be a disaster for the country.
The SNEDB would have to follow key principles for a clear vision of development of the country and its resources, as follows:
a. Openness and transparency of all its sub-platforms and institutions, including measures for fighting corruption and mismanagement;
b. Encouraging the private sector to play the major part of the resource development;
c. Creating a close financial and economic relationship with the international community and governmental ethos of fiscal responsibility;
d. Implementing world-class standards and best practices, which reduces red tape and promotes efficiencies. This would attract world-class investors and not the adventurers who thrive on third world countries.
e. A social safety net for the country’s citizens. This would instill confidence and trust in the citizens and would create a sense of belonging for all.
The SNEDB will have to develop a diversified economy as noted above, that does not rely or depend on one industry.
Dr Suleiman Walhad