No country can thrive in isolation
I’m writing to comment on the topic that was brought up by Adnan Abdi in his text Africa must climb – not beg – out of poverty.
I agree that relying on foreign aid is unsustainable in the long run. I think many of us would agree that in the best of worlds, aid would not be needed at all, and humanitarian relief would only be there to help in the case of unexpected emergencies like natural disasters. Human behavior is something each of us can – at least to a certain extent – control and greatly influence, and should therefore not be a cause of distress. Nonetheless, when those disasters do occur, we cannot turn a blind eye to the suffering of others.
In a country without any social security system the remittances of the Somali Diaspora provide for housing, healthcare and education for some 40 per cent of the population. The remittances are therefore a crucial lifeline for a society on the brink of breakthrough – and to suddenly cut them out could have dire consequences. Hunger, frustration and lack of opportunity are likely to fuel violence which in turn will deter business investors, hindering innovation and development.
With expectations running high, we need to be reminded that change takes time. There are several structural problems both at the national and the international level. A recent report by the IMF, the first one done in 25 years, concluded that the biggest economic challenge Somalia faces is to build sound institutions and to foster good governance. Because Somalia has been cut off from the international financial system, there is still not an effective regulator and supervisor of the financial institutions in the country.
Institutional reforms to guarantee the functionality of financial markets and integrity of judicial systems are therefore paramount and foreign aid should be phased out over time in a gradual and well considered process. In other words, one structure needs to be replaced with another if we want to avoid anarchy. As the IMF report concludes: “Given the magnitude of the task in Somalia, no one institution can be expected to manage it singlehandedly” and because in a global and interdependent world no country can thrive in isolation.
Kirjoittaja toimii järjestöavustajana Suomen Somalia-verkostossa.