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

Missouri Town Braces for Possible Racial Unrest

Situation in Ferguson hinges on whether white police officer will be indicted for August shooting death of unarmed black teen; decision could come Monday More

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of 1930s Deadly Famine

President Poroshenko compares Soviet-era ‘genocide’ to current tactics of pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine's east More

S. Philippines Convictions Elusive 5 Years After Election-related Killings

Officials vowed to deliver justice as the nation marked the anniversary of the country's worst political massacre that left 58 dead, more than half media 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.
Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Faminei
X
Daniel Schearf
November 23, 2014 4:32 PM
During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video Law Enforcement, Activists in Ferguson Agree to Keep Peace

Authorities in Ferguson, Missouri, say they have agreed with protest leaders to maintain peace when a grand jury reaches its decision on whether to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of a black teenager. Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, has been the scene of intermittent violence since the August 9 shooting intensified long-simmering antagonism between the police and the African-American community. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid