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Poverty and the way out

Conflict and Political instability, natural disasters, insecurity and the absence of the rule of law and weak governance are the main reasons why Somalis are poor according to a government survey supported by data from the World Bank.

Ayan A. Diiriye

The four drivers to poverty have combined to drive many families into the brink of death with statistics now shocking on the number of families unable to fend for themselves even on basic needs like food and shelter.

Though the list of poverty drivers was lengthy, over half of the stakeholders interviewed including civil society and a number of society stakeholders representing different groups mentioned, among the key drivers, the four issues, all of which are national and broad in nature, creating a reality pointer on where efforts to eliminate the poverty should be focused.

The survey which was conducted during the formulation of the country’s latest development footprint, the ninth National Development Plan also pointed to priority interventions to reduce poverty.

The four-sided approach according to those surveyed pointed at improved security and rule of law; productive sector development, improved transport infrastructure, and improvement in water management (infrastructure). Also identified among other important steps to be taken are inclusive and accountable politics; improved security and the rule of law and, inclusive economic and employment growth.

But even as the country focused on designing a formula to tame poverty, Somalia faces a number of constraints in formulating evidence-based policies and plans, most important among which is scarce household and sectoral data.

The country has been receiving significant assistance from the World Bank through its National Directorate of Statistics (NDS) which recently churned some series of household surveys were conducted in 2015/16 and 2017/18 which really helped in firming the approach needed in taming poverty in the latest development plan.

From a once predominantly rural population, Somalia is currently projected to be over 50 percent urbanized within the next six years – an issue that poses considerable challenges for public policymaking in the context of weak institutions and limited economic means, and in terms of coping with pressures from infrastructural needs resulting from rapid urbanisation.

Ayan A. Diiriye, TSIM Senior Writer

“Monetary poverty indicated that 69 percent of Somalis live under the international poverty line of US$1.90 a day (in 2011 PPP dollars). Disaggregated data, along with the levels of severity of poverty, indicate that internally displaced persons (IDPs) and the rural population (both agro-pastoralists and nomads) have the highest rates of monetary poverty, “read the outlook in the development plan unveiled in early 2020.

The study also found that alongside monetary poverty, there are other less discernible aspects of deprivation. Poverty is multidimensional in nature, as demonstrated by multiple socio-economic outcomes, with health, education and living standard indicators all lagging regional and global averages.

 Maternal mortality ratios in Somalia are amongst the highest in the world, as are levels of childhood stunting and under-five mortality rates. Primary school enrolment is persistently low, averaging 33 percent nationally, with rural, nomad, and female participation being the lowest.

In fact, a Somali experiences deprivation in two additional dimensions: lack of physical safety and lack of empowerment. The first dimension which has roots in both conflict and climate emergencies have led to large-scale displacement and insecurity.

Those surveyed also decried access to justice and the police which present a mixed picture, with rural citizens relying mainly on traditional, clan-based protection and dispute resolution.

Locals also decry lack of empowerment for leading to exclusion, a feature of poverty that impacts three groups disproportionately, particularly when it comes to economic participation: women, IDPs, and youth.

Although the most current Population Estimate Survey (PESS) was completed in 2014, estimates that have been prepared for relevant demographic groups show a widespread lack of harmony. Women who represent 56 percent of the population and generate up to 70 percent of household income are under-represented in the formal labor force, keeping them off the economics of the country.

While the demographic dividend is supposed to present some hope with the country’s predominantly young population, of over 70 percent estimated to be under the age of 35, the economic gap is complicated by an enduring an unemployment rate of approximately 70 percent nationally. When averaged out across all geographical locations youth unemployment is estimated at 68 percent This according to many surveyed, is not helping to slay the dragon of poverty.

The situation is even worse when it comes to those that have been displaced. As of 2017, almost 2.1 million (of an estimated 15 million) Somalis were categorized as internally displaced. For these three groups, poverty rates are high and socio-economic outcomes are substantially low. The result is significant inequality and lost opportunity.

Location, cultural norms, and clannism are factors that deepen the consequences of exclusion identify and map, within the framework of the NDP and the Government’s Recovery and Resilience Framework, their five-year priorities, based on recent roadmap agreements with the Office of the Prime Minister.

The surveys which involved different rounds of consultations including those held with Development Partners who, working with the Government, will continue to be important actors in meeting poverty reduction goals now make the clearest outline on the key drivers of poverty in the horn of Africa nation and how it can be dealt with.

There are other dynamics like the demographic shifts created by displacement that will continue to change the face of Somali lifestyles; since displacement has predominantly been rural citizens to urban, usually in the aftermath of conflict or natural disaster. From a once predominantly rural population, Somalia is currently projected to be over 50 percent urbanized within the next six years – an issue that poses considerable challenges for public policymaking in the context of weak institutions and limited economic means, and in terms of coping with pressures from infrastructural needs resulting from rapid urbanization.

The dynamics don’t just stop at the gender divide. “The detailed poverty analysis presented in NDP-9 identifies the following groups as the most vulnerable: rural Somalis (including both agro-pastoralists and nomads); women; youth; other excluded groups, including persons with disabilities; and IDPs,” the report published by the government noted.

 As much as the survey did not delve into details about the largely traditional economy of mostly livestock and agriculture which dominates the economy of Somalia, in terms of export, domestic consumption, and employment, the area needs special attention.

There are risks in remaining an undiversified economy for Somalia, especially with the impacts of climate change on these sectors and the unpredictability of livestock and agriculture commodity markets.

While the demographic dividend is supposed to present some hope with the country’s predominantly young population, of over 70 percent estimated to be under the age of 35, the economic gap is complicated by an enduring an unemployment rate of approximately 70 percent nationally. 

Ayan A. Diiriye, TSIM Senior Writer

“Investments linked to disease prevention, animal health and nutrition, improved crop productivity through better production methods and climate-resilient techniques and the strengthening of value-chains, can deliver improved economic results in a sustainable way,” noted the survey also supported y the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The county will need sweeping reforms and investments to enhance the economic contribution of a number of promising sectors including financial, telecommunication, construction, and petroleum, as well as the expansion of international trade, to broaden growth, alongside improved resilience and productivity of the traditional sectors.

Other key focus areas to help reduce poverty include a focus on other existing sectors like fishing, ICT, financial services and newly emerging ones like services, manufacturing, and petroleum that require specific legislation and support, in addition to the overall regulatory framework to be made significant economic drivers in the war against biting poverty.

All these interventions will require an enabling environment to make the desired impacts with priority accorded to the strengthening of the macro-economic framework and completion of Public Finance Management.

This is basically because external investors need to have proper confidence so that they can invest funds in Somalia and realize a return. 

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