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

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora