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Why Somalia’s National Identity Crucial?

Mohamed Mire

There are one billion individuals worldwide who lack a national identity card, according to 2018 World Bank research. Due to their lack of a sense of national identification, these people have severe difficulties in obtaining and using important government services as well as in asserting their individual rights.

A nation’s development can be reframed around having an inclusive, trustworthy, and strong foundational identification system because it can enable financial inclusion and make it easier for vulnerable populations to access essential services like political participation, education, and social safety nets. This can boost the economic well-being of a nation’s vulnerable populations.

A digital national identification will not only make government services more accessible; it will also help the government provide enormous advantages for both the public and commercial sectors by improving efficiency and accountability and lowering fraud, leaks, and resource wastage.

Before colonisation arrived in Somalia, there was no official identification system existing in Somalia because the country did not have any government administration and identified country boundaries and majority people of Somalia lived in rural areas and they were a pastoralist society who had sparsely spread and inhabited several territories in the Horn of Africa. The only way they could identify others was by their dialect, accent and genealogy if needed.

The first colony that arrived in Somalia was an Italian that started to establish the clear boundaries of the country. The identification of the country’s boundaries assisted the Italian colonial to create the identity registration system to control and secure the movement of the migrants and Somali citizens. After World War II ended, the Italian colony administration was overthrown in North of Somalia by the British colonial administration which came to North of Somalia to expand its presence in East Africa. After that time, South and North Somalia had two different national identities although both identities had some similarities like verification done by the clan leaders.

After Somalia got its independence from the colonial administrations, the first Somali government started to establish the Somali government system which is owned and ruled by Somali people both from North and South Somalia. The military government has achieved to establish the citizenship law which defines who can be Somali Citizens and what conditions are required. But until today no government in Somalia has achieved to establish Somali National Registration and Identity.

ID Card’s Significance in Somalis

Establishment of a legal national identity is very crucial in this century. The national identity enables and creates huge opportunities for the Somali people. The following points are benefits of having a national identity card.

First Security Enhancement: Somalia for the last decades has been facing security challenges, but the federal government of Somalia has not come up with a proper solution for the country’s insecurity. One of the main reasons why the insecurity of Somalia is not improving is a lack of national identity, which facilitates many foreigners coming to Somalia and participating in the insecurity of the country.

Therefore, the proof of a national identity card would assist the Somali government in keeping track of and preventing all the insecurity incidents, including those involving illegal immigrants who come to the country to be part of the insecurity violence happening in Somali territory or citizens who might plan to carry out actions against the country’s security and stability.

Second Financial Inclusion: The national identity card would facilitate financial inclusion for marginalised groups, including women and youth. Because the national identity will assist these groups to apply for and receive financial support from the government and donors. They will also be able to exercise key individual rights such as labour mobility, formal employment, voting, and property rights as a result of their national identity. 

Third Robustness of government service delivery: The national identity will facilitate strengthening the efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency of good governance and service delivery to its community. These services include social safety nets, healthcare, education, and other social services like property rights.

Forth Enhancement for productivity of the private sector: for the last decades the Enhancement for productivity of the private sector: for the last decades, the private sector in Somalia has been growing, but most enterprises have suffered from uncertainty about their clients because of the “know your customer issue”. As a result, national identity cards will assist them in utilising and resolving the issue of identification and authentication for their clients. This will not merely be utilised by the enterprises, but also individuals will get access to take advantage of investment opportunities provided by the different banks since they have national identity cards.

In overall conclusion the identification card is very important and needed for now in Somalia. Because the identity of the Somali people is already lost and it is very hard to track and identify who is Somali Citizen and who is not because of the lack of identity. Therefore, the identity card will assist security force to trace and find out easily when they want to identify who was involved and participated the security incident happen in the country. The identity card will not only help the security enhancement in the country but it will also bring to economic opportunity for the marginalised groups including women and youth.

Mohamed Mire, is a senior University Lecturer and Economist and can be reached via: or @MuhammedMire

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