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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs