The Null Device

The Puntland model for economic success

Via Bruce Sterling, some background on the rise of Somali maritime piracy, which is threatening to strangle trade through the Suez Canal (and is reaching out to the route around the Cape of Good Hope):
Some analysts write fearful tracts that the pirates have links with terrorists and extremists, that the chaos is a direct result of international neglect of Somalia, and try to link pirates to the islamist insurgency that control much of the south or the recent terrorist bombings in Somaliland. This is nonsense. The origins of Somali piracy are not found in the southern half of the country, where a “transitional government” is dueling the Union of Islamic Courts with the half-hearted assistance of the Ethiopian military. Somali piracy originates in Puntland, a self-declared autonomous region of Somalia at the horn, hailed for years by policymakers as a model of a stable Somali state.
Piracy has its origins in the organized communities of the Puntland coast. In the 1990s, a group of fisherman in settlements there banded together to prevent illegal fishing and the dumping of toxic waste off their shores. This harmless community action inspired many analysts to designate Puntland a model for Somali civil society. When some ships illegally fishing were boarded in attempts to police the region, the reward offered for the boats return was enormous—amounts that were many times the monthly income of entire villages. Piracy took off as an attempt to gain income from this type of civic policing, and slowly grew to what Kaplan called the “innocence” of piracy. It wasn’t long before the pirates became more ambitious, using the fishing boats they captured to hunt larger prey. And with the money that came in, small fishing towns were transformed into pirate havens. As responsible organizers, pirates have invested some of their profits back into the franchise, replacing barely seaworthy rafts with speedboats, AK-47s with modern arms, and GPS tracking systems to boot.
Analysts were right about Puntland’s organization, but they were wrong that Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, president of the transitional government and the former leader of Puntland, could spread the discipline of goverment and organization to elsewhere in Somalia. Instead, it’s become the parent of a business model that could be copied in other lawless regions of the world.

There are 2 comments on "The Puntland model for economic success":

Posted by: Lisa p Wed Dec 10 08:37:57 2008

Somalia has been home to over ten years of near continuous civil war, and it isn't likely to let up anytime soon. Industry and development have been slow to the war torn country, and there isn't a great deal of social mobility, unless of course you happen to be one of the local warlords. Some citizens have found a way to make themselves a good living in these times of trouble, by turning to one of the worlds' oldest professions, but it isn't one you're likely to see an ad for in the paper – there isn't a benefits package, retirement, or even much job security, but many people have turned to it at times – that is, piracy. Yes, Virginia, pirates. Now when most people these days think pirates, they conjure up images of Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom, but that isn't what pirates in the modern world are like. Modern pirates use high speed boats, AK-47s, RPG launchers, and GPS equipment. In recent months, a Ukrainian vessel carrying military equipment and a Saudi ship carrying about 2 million barrels of oil have

Posted by: acb Wed Dec 10 09:33:00 2008

Thank you, Lisa P. Alas, you seem to have hit the comment size limit. Have you considered starting your own blog?

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