News / Africa

Report Argues Somali Piracy Benefits, Stabilizes Economy

The MV Pacific Express which was set on fire by suspected Somali pirates on September 21, 2011 is towed along the Likoni channel by Kenya Ports Authority tug boats to the port of Mombasa, Kenya. (File Photo - September 30, 2011)
The MV Pacific Express which was set on fire by suspected Somali pirates on September 21, 2011 is towed along the Likoni channel by Kenya Ports Authority tug boats to the port of Mombasa, Kenya. (File Photo - September 30, 2011)
Dominic Laurie

Piracy off the coast of Somalia has cost many lives and billions of dollars lost through ransom demands and stolen cargo. However, a report out Friday by the London-based think tank Chatham House has calculated that it has also brought widespread economic development to the poor, war-torn country. Normal state infrastructure that exists in other countries has fallen apart in Somalia, but the report says pirates have stepped into the void, providing "local governance and stability."

According to this report, the average ransom being paid to pirates who operate on the coast of Somalia is $4.5 million. The report’s author, Anja Shortland of Brunel University just outside London, wanted to find out where the money is going. Somalia is one of the most violent societies on earth and difficult for foreigners to visit. So she had few sources of information available to her.

First she looked at data given to her by local sources in the country. That told her that a significant proportion of ransom money makes its way into the local community. About a third of the dollars get exchanged into the local currency - the shilling - she says, evidence that it ends up being used by the poorest in society. She says this doesn’t necessarily mean the pirates are generous, just pragmatic.

"Somalia has a really strong culture of sharing - so if anyone comes into money then it is expected that the family will benefit as well," she said. "There is a lovely Somali saying - if you have a hundred goats and your cousin has none, then you are a poor man. Sharing is a form of insurance - it'd be a very poor choice to keep your entire wealth about your person, because the chances are that in our drought your livelihood will be wiped out. So sharing with your family means that if something bad happens to you, you can get back to your family and they will support. That culture is very much alive.”

Shortland then looked at two other sources of information - aerial photos of nighttime over Somalia and high resolution satellite images during the day. Both told her that some inland communities had got a lot richer, even when most other communities had become poorer over the past four years. There were more lights on at night now in some inland towns, and more construction projects than there were before.

Shortland explains why inland communities fare better than coastal ones, despite the piracy happening at sea.

"A traditional pirate crew would be five, six militia men from inland and one or two fishermen that know about navigating," she said. "So probably most of the people come from inland anyway. Somalia is a pastoral culture - not really a fishing culture. It’s not glamorous to be a fisherman."

Piracy is providing livelihoods to thousands of other people - cooks, traders, pastors, fishermen - her report concludes, not just the pirates themselves. But that doesn’t mean she thinks a society based on piracy is better than other alternatives.

“I am not arguing that we should accept piracy as a form of development," said Shortland. "What I am arguing here is, if we were to stop piracy by military means, we need to think about the poor people who are currently benefiting from piracy. The developmental effect of piracy is strong enough to make it important for us to consider how we are going to replace those incomes."

Western countries are increasing aid commitments to Somalia - even as budgets for other areas of policy are cut back. If the Chatham House report is correct, the financial incentives for the Somali population to wean themselves off piracy will be need to be large.

You May Like

WHO: Anti-Ebola Efforts Should Focus on West Africa

Official says WHO is 'reasonably confident' countries bordering those hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak are not seeing the virus crossing their borders More

South Sudan Crisis Threatens Development

Economic costs and lost development opportunities in South Sudan have erased what little progress the country has made since independence in 2011 More

Ukraine PM Warns Russia May Try to Disrupt Sunday Poll

Arseniy Yatsenyuk orders full security mobilization for parliamentary election to prevent ‘terrorist acts’ from being carried out More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid