Somalia is a Security Blanket for Africa

The Impact of Turkey’s Involvement in Somalia to Protect Challenges and Opportunities for National and International Security  

By; professor Nour Kaafi, MIPIS, IPIS, a Senior National Security & Statecraft Adviser to the Office of Somalia President and the Chancellor of the Somali institute of Security and Diplomacy (SIRAD) in Mogadishu Somalia *

Somalia has been a theatre of unknown-war for almost three decades. The fall of the Somali democratic Republic of Somalia (1969-1991) was followed by a civil war and a warlord-led era until 2000. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and since then there has been an International terrorist battle and manmade famine in Somalia. Thousands of Somali people have been killed during the last two decades and millions more have been relocated for an indefinite period of time, and are trying to live under unacceptable conditions inside Somalia (IDP) as well as in Kenya and Yemen.

The World Bank country director for Somalia, Bella Bird, said that the World Bank is encouraged by the progress that Somalis have made in the last three years to rebuild their country amidst immense challenges. As she argued, “So far there are positive signs that the economy is responding, Somalis are returning from abroad, shops are opening, new financial institutions have been licensed and property markets are booming,” she added.

This World Bank report was the first economic update regarding Somalia since the last World Bank economic Memorandum report for Somalia in 2005. The long civil war and manmade famine in Somalia has made it hard to monitor economic and social data in Somalia.

Total federal tax revenue grew by more than 300 percent to $145 million in 2014 from $35.1 million in 2012, the World Bank reported. Beyond Somalia, trade relations with countries like South Africa, Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Ethiopia have all improved since 2002.

This policy brief examines Turkey’s engagement with Somalia, a country with which Turkey has not had any long-standing foreign relations with in the past. What is the motivation for Turkey’s involvement in Somalia? How does Turkey engage with the humanitarian project differently from traditional donors and what are some of the challenges it faces in so doing so in Somalia? This brief presentation argues that Turkey’s interest in Somalia is part of the AKP’s multidimensional foreign policy agenda and its efforts to develop Turkey’s identity as a global peace mediator in Africa.

After almost three decades of civil-war, the socio-economy of Somalia was extremely fragile before 2011, and the country’s future was mainly dependent on international humanitarian aid. According to the World Bank, foreign aid generated the majority of Somalia’s GDP over the three decades. The socio- political and security uncertainties Somalia faced before 2011 represented the key obstacle for upcoming presidential power transfer, 2016 elections and transition process respectively, which could jeopardize its sustainable security and stability progress in Somalia.

Therefore, this presentation will first of all provide insights into the security handover period and its possible effects on the Somalia economy by establishing a connection between security and economic concerns as a result of the Turkish engagement in Somalia.

The importance of the international aid received by Somalia to date is explained, in light of the need to create a self-sufficient Somalia by the end of the Transformation Decade 2020. In this regard, the PowerPoint presentation and strategic analysis by the Somalia Institute of Security and diplomacy (SIRAD) will present recommendations on what the international community and particularly “Turkish initiatives” should be after 2016, and how to use the international security engagement efficiently.

Somalia is a Security Blanket for Africa:

Turkey’s initiatives in Somalia was a success story, it is a novelty in Turkish foreign policy. Turkey’s efforts in Somalia are significant for a number of strategic and humanitarian reasons:


First, it has played a role in Somalia’s return to the international community. It has also created aviation air travel-link facilities between Somalis in Somalia and Diaspora Worldwide. The daily arrival and departure of Turkish Airlines in the skies above the Somali capital, Mogadishu, is a daily reminder of Somalia’s growing stability and confidence, and of Turkey’s generous direct support from their top leaders and its people. This creates a hope that Somalis can come back and be part of the rebuilding of their country.

Secondly, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has played an instrumental role. As early as 2011, as acting Prime Minister, he came to Somalia himself — the first leader of his stature to set foot in Somalia for 2 decades, with his wife and children. This instilled hope that Somalia is not only safe to visit but also has the potential to be brought back into the world stage. It also encouraged Somalis around the world, for the first time in decades, to take part in the effort of rebuilding and reconstructing the countries institutional infrastructure. This revived hope resuscitated Somalia from a state of hopelessness—a confidence that Somalia could be an equal partner on so many fronts.

Equal partner

Since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit in Mogadishu, there has been a growing interest in Turkey’s humanitarian policies as a rising global actor in this regard. There are several noteworthy elements in the Turkish model for engagement with Africa in the humanitarian field. Firstly, the new Turkish initiatives in Somalia have treated it as an equal partner respecting its territorial integrity as well as accepted Somali governments inputs for future trade partnership policies. Turkey’s perception of Somalia as a future trading partner enabled us to approach our relationship from an equal footing, leading to mutual respect and enthusiastic cooperation. Turkey’s role in the development and stabilization of Somalia has been a model of solidarity in hard times for Africa.

Soft Diplomacy

Secondly, the Turkish approach gives its engagement a “human face”, which is commented on by Turkish and African diplomats alike. Turkish leader’s policy in Somalia has had a positive spillover effect back in Turkey by immensely contributing to Turkey’s domestic institutions; a modern model initiative approach that combines humanitarian aid, development projects and financial investment, to lower regional food security threats and minimize vulnerabilities against man-made famine. Turkey has tied its various efforts together in an integrated development model that combines humanitarian aid, development projects and financial investment in Somalia. These led to strategic and important repercussions for Turkey to further open Africa and beyond. Turkey’s Somalia policy is the best current example of inter-agency coordination within the context of Turkey’s foreign policy.

Security Progress and Infrastructural Enhancement

Turkey’s initiatives came as a force of nature, putting Somalia’s infrastructure development sectors in the forefront. Somali people are healing and the country is recovering, with a genuine support of the International community, in particular “Turkish engagement Initiatives” in Somalia, since 2011. The efforts by the Somali national army (SNA), with the support AMISOM forces (the African Union mission in Somalia), have led to a regain of control of the major cities and towns of Southern Somalia. Moreover, the major national critical infrastructures such as the airports, sea ports and the connected highways and supply lines, that allow open trade routes which facilitates inter-trade activities within the society, are also under control.

Additionally, the government structures are growing stronger by the month with respect to capability and execution, and thanks to the ‘Vision 2016’ plan — when elections will be held — is becoming a reality.

According to the Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud, “None of this would have been possible without the support and generosity of the international community, among whose nations Turkey — and its President — have played a prominent, exemplary role.”


Turkey did not hold back, waiting for stability before it invested. Instead, it invested to achieve it. Where other international partners chose to plan their interventions from elsewhere, Turkey put its people on the ground in Somalia to maximize the efficient use of their human and planning resources in support of their financial resources. Turkish aid workers delivered their aid directly to the beneficiaries, to maximize impact. The training hospital in Mogadishu illustrates this point. Turkey has built a 400-bed hospital and set up a training scheme for Mogadishu’s doctors to enable them to better assist the sick. This approach has enabled Turkish development agencies to form real partnerships with the government, local population and businesses.

In total, Turkey has invested in infrastructure, building hospitals, rebuilding destroyed government property and digging wells. It has provided training to our doctors, teachers and civil servants. Turkey has set up more than 1,000 scholarships to enable our young people to study abroad. It has brought in businesses that changed the face of Mogadishu and encouraged its entrepreneurs to come to the city and transform state enterprises, including returning the port and the airport to profitability. Beyond Somalia, trade and investment relations with countries like South Africa, Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Ethiopia have all improved since 2012. Overall Impact: Local Economy Prior to Turkish involvement in Somalia, Somalia was an economically dependent state because of the manmade famine, terror wars and lack of political cohesion inside Somalia following the neighbouring-led operations against International terrorists since 1996. The lack of recognized institutions, regional states, governance and the economic situation was in part the result of insecurity and instability. Yet, especially in the last five years, the economic and security problems of this war-torn country have grown into a “cause and effect” relationship due to the weak governance and constant skirmishes with violent militants.

Both the economy and the security situation of Somalia have improved. The country is experiencing “the most advanced telecommunication and financial sectors, democratisation process, secure with amid risk and prosperous era in the last 3 years of its modern history”, but things could be better.

One of the most important factors in Somalia’s Socio-economic recovering is the ever-increasing inflow of the international security and infrastructure assistance.

The direct and indirect investment growth of the private service and agricultural sectors have also had a positive impact on the Southern Somalia economy. However, living conditions of the major areas control by militants in Southern Somalia remain among the worst in the country. The lack of social services, especially in the areas which have higher number of internally displaced persons (IDP), medical care, clean and safe water, public infrastructure, and high crime rates are some of the main issues that could give rise to serious difficulties for the federal government in the near future.

The top employment and recruiting body of the federal government is the Somali National Army (SNA) and national Security Forces, such as federal police and other related militias that protects federal controlled areas. The total number of officers in the Somalia national army (SNA) has increased, since 2011. The quality of the Somalia national security forces could not match its growing size, due to insufficient training inside Somalia and abroad. Their nationalism and spirit to protect their citizens is high and they are capable and locally qualified to fight against Al-shabaab militants in a combat zone. This is one of the main reasons that led AMISOM and International community to hand over the security control of the regional states and districts to Somali forces in different stages rather than all at once.

The federal government’s security issues were not prioritized exclusively, and the economic concerns were also borne in mind during the transition process to localize security initiatives within the regional states.

International initiative for Peace in Somalia

According to the long-term partnership agreement, the lead responsibility for Somalia’s security will be progressively transferred from the AMISOM-led International Security initiatives to the Somali National army (SNA) with its other related Security Forces. The goal is to have it completed by the end of 2016. It is internationally anticipated that this period will be finalized by the end of 2016, when the combat mission of the AMISOM and International security support concludes. The AMISOM combat troops will be replaced by a small number of international forces, whose mission will be to train, advice and assist the Somali National Army (SNA) and police. Following the end of the transition process in 2012, the transformation for a legitimate federal government (2016-2020) will begin.

The president of Somalia expressed his hopes for the future regional security and stability of Somalia, during his three years celebration (2015) in a statement:

“Somalia’s future is clear: a Somalia led by Somalis, defended by Somalis and working for the benefit and the stability of the regional and Somalia.”

The successful conclusion of the Transition Process – if everything goes according to plan – will lead to the prioritizing of economic growth over security. This is urgently needed. Even if security and stability is achieved on all fronts in the post-2016 era, it will still take years for Somalia to manage its own federal security and economy. At present, Somalia is in need of the international security and stability aid fund to enable the federal government even to pay the salaries of the Somali national security forces.

Somalia’s Current Economic Reality Today, the Somali economy is much stronger than it was in 2011. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP - purchasing power parity) has almost doubled since 2011, and reached approximately USD 5.7 billion in 2014. Somalia’s GDP comes from agriculture, local industry and financial services sectors according to the Somalia economic update by the World Bank Group report, dated October 2015, Edition No.1.

Despite the fact that the Somalia economy has developed at a remarkable rate since the collapse of Al-Shabaab in 2011, this growth is mainly due to the inflow of international remittances from Diaspora and Turkish direct aid and donor-led development projects led by EU and USA. In fact, Somalia is still exceedingly deprived and the Somali economy is on a cliff edge, whereby any decrease in the international assistance, as well as Turkish direct development aid could have a serious impact.

The international community, mostly the Turkish, U.S. and EU, pays for the majority of the direct development aid. The international donors for Somalia should pledge more money for the post-2016 era of Somalia for the Somali national army and security forces to stop the international militant activities in the region.


In Somalia, a new strategically international security partnership needs to be built that includes Somalis, the federal government, international donors and the Turkish direct technical assistance to focus on the stability and security of the whole Somalia. Private sector stakeholders should work collaboratively with the Somali government in order to build and sustain good governance in Asset protection, Tax collection, and Revenue sharing. Additionally, African Think Thanks should be united and focused on creating strategic policies for the interest of African development.

It is optimistic to say that the Somalian economy will continue to improve during the transformation and federalism process as the financial support of Turkish, EU and the U.S. gradually increases. Especially if the reconciliation of Al-Shabaab elements doesn’t go well as is expected soon, it will be extremely difficult to talk about security and stability in Southern Somalia, not to mention a stable economy and region. This helps militants to recruit young lads for their terror activities in the Horn of Africa.

Under today’s conditions, Somalia may need more than USD 1 to 2 billion, since the salaries of the Somali police and soldiers alone will cost more than USD 2 billion after 2016. Despite billions of dollars in aid over the last decade, it is still not enough for Somalia government to offer a minimum standard of living to its security forces. In order to achieve the most important goal, which is to render the federal government of Somalia and the economy self-sufficient by the end of the transformation year in 2020, the international community, Turkish direct aid, the Somali government and Somali people have a lot to do, within the next Five years. There is no doubt that international direct aid and Turkish infrastructure initiatives will remain central in order for all the stakeholders to succeed in Somalia.

The aim of the international development assistance should be to support success, security and stability in the whole Somalia. Long-standing security and stability is essential for Somalia to invest, produce, build, and create a better future for its citizens and neighbouring countries. The level of Turkish initiatives and international aid pledged for Somalia is critical, and its influence on the quality of an ordinary Somalis daily life is a vital aspect of this.

Until now, most of the incoming international aid has been consumed by security-related expenditures. From now on, the budget reserved for social and economic development, education, health, agriculture, and urban and rural development must be increased. Each province and district should concentrate on delivering basic services to its people, and the population has to be persuaded that the Somali federal government and regional states are investing all their efforts and money into the future of the Somali people to empower stability.

Urgently for maritime security in the Indian Ocean supply lines; political, social and economic stability is needed to sustain security in Somalia. If there are no improvements to the economic and social situation in Somalia, regional security and maritime safety alone will not bring peace to the whole Somalia and its citizens. Security is a fundamental condition for the Somali Federal government, Turkish investment initiatives and International communities, and Somali people to work together to build a better Somalia for future generations along with regional stability.

Professor Nour Kaafi, MIPIS, IPIS, is a Canadian; post graduate PCIP diploma and honours MIPIS post graduate; a combined program at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (NPSIA) and the Infrastructure protection and International Security (IPIS) at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. Prof. Kaafi, is a Senior National Security & Statecraft Adviser to the Office of the Federal Somali President, the Chancellor of the Somali institute of Security and Diplomacy (SIRAD) in Mogadishu Somalia. The former Executive Director of Canadian Eye of Africa (CEAfrica - http://www.canadianeyeonafrica. ca), A Senior Fellow in the Research Division “Infrastructure protection & International Security” at the international Institute of IPIS (Infrastructure protection and International Security), member of Canadian Defense Institute (CDI), Canadian International Council (CIC) - Africa Group and The founder/ publisher and Managing editor of Geeska Afrika Online (1985-2016, the oldest free independent Free Press in the region, brings together regional Think Thanks and top journalists from across the Horn of Africa - and has published widely on various foreign and regional policy issues, including IGAD, IPF and European defense and security policy, Suez Canal, Nile water Issues and Arabian peninsula security initiatives, Euro-Atlantic security for Africa, Turkey Africa Initiative strategy for regional security, EU-Canada symposium of defense and security issues, and multinational maritime security operations.

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