The Other Horn of Africa

HARGEISA – Drought, famine, refugees, piracy, and the violence and terrorism endemic to the shattered city of Mogadishu, a capital ruined by civil war: these are the images that flash through peoples’ minds nowadays when they think of the Horn of Africa. Such perceptions, however, are not only tragically one-sided; they are short-sighted and dangerous.

Behind the stock images of a region trapped in chaos and despair, economies are growing, reform is increasingly embraced, and governance is improving. Moreover, with Yemen’s government imploding across the Red Sea, the Horn of Africa’s strategic significance for maritime oil transport has become a primary global security concern. In short, the Horn of Africa is too important to ignore or to misunderstand.

Of course, no one should gainsay the importance of combating famine, piracy, and terrorist groups like the radical and murderous Al-Shabaab. But, at the same time, we have seen my homeland, Somaliland, witness its third consecutive free, fair, and contested presidential election. And Ethiopia has emerged as one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, with GDP up 10.9% year on year in 2010-2011, rivaling China and leading Africa. Indeed, Ethiopia is one of the few countries in the world poised to meet the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals on time and in full in 2015.

In the wider region, too, things are looking up. South Sudan gained its independence this July at the ballot box. And Uganda has discovered large new deposits of oil and gas that will help to lift its economy.