Given the current political situation in Somalia, do you believe it is a good place to potentially invest?
There is an incredibly dynamic investment climate in Africa which I think we completely underestimate in our understanding from this side of the world. Even a place like Somalia is good at making miracles out of stone. Somalia exports more than five-million livestock—which is more than double many other African countries. The animals come from Ethiopia, Kenya, etc and head out.
They have been investing in sesame production that passes through Dubai on to Europe…this is produced in a very high quality way because it is produced for bakeries in Northern Europe. They are doing all of that near the conflict in South Central Somalia.
Where do you see the livestock industry headed in Somalia?
There is quite little of transformation in Somalia which could be done quite more. Just the transformation of meat as opposed to live animals would be quite interesting just in terms of technology, know how, and business opportunity—especially to the Arab states. This is becoming more and more of a business opportunity especially because a couple years ago meat from Australia was not able to export livestock…There is an increasing demand of live animals in the Gulf and Saudi Arabia but still there is a huge market for processed animals.
How about Somalia’s fisheries, do they have potential to propel Somalia’s growth?
There are a number of agreements that are not being utilized properly. The current problem with fishing near Somalia is that the existing laws are not easily enforced. Somalia only gets ten percent for the value of the fish as far as licensing fees. Somalia’s exporting fleet is poor but for large vessels this would work quite well. “In the North of Somalia there are coastal towns so something there is feasible.
Somalia was recently awarded 1.3 billion US dollars, from the UN, for development. How much of this money is anticipated to go to agribusiness activities?
Under twenty million US dollars, or 10% will go to agriculture. The government plans to intervene with substantial support for the small producers which are in need of more capacity and we help the big producers with the proper legal framework to help them invest properly n the area where they want to invest. Most of the 20 million will go to the poorest of the farmers.
What is currently happening in Somalia to protect the livestock farmers already have?
Every few years there is a high risk of major disease for livestock…we are on the last year of an initiative which covered sixty percent of sheep against PBR, which is a pest, and was very important for protecting the small producers which for us as an international agency is more important.
Do you think that in the future Somalia could greatly benefit from free trade, how so?
We are working out free trade on a regional level. There are quite a lot of needs and opportunities to be made inside the region and that should be done tax free. Imagine sugar, where Sudan makes enormous amounts of sugar, Somalia which is a he importer of sugar, and Kenya which fluctuates”.
What is being done to ensure Somalia is prepared to deal with famines?
During the last famine, we decided as a way to intervene, to use cash for work program. Basically, we convinced the poorest not to emigrate from rural areas. By giving them cash for a few weeks and later cash for work. This work consisted of excavating 1/3 of a cubic meter per day, of dirt, for a canal. To increase their productive capacity later on.
How were these workers able to purchase food if there was such a critical shortage?
Well, I kind of shocked the system by gong to Dubai and setting up a deal to get food to retailers in proper quantities relative to the paid workers. It was just information sharing.
There has been some criticism about humanitarian assistance hurting local farmers, how does the international community adapt to these complaints, are they valid?
We realized there were a number of agencies trying to target the same people. The three biggest agencies of the UN decided to work together on this concept of resilience. Most of our resources were used on that objective and sequencing the different types of intervention with the proper logic. Going local when we can and international when it can’t be done locally. Because that is what the community needs.
How has Somalia’s food security improved?
Since last year’s drought the food security situation has improved a lot. We have moved from 4.2 million in extreme need to 2.12 million. However, we are still talking about 28% of the population. A large amount of the population is flat on the poverty scale—where a small thing can push everyone into a serious problem. This is why we need to focus on resiliancy of people. Without a state, the people are losing their communities and we need capacity to keep them up to a certain level. Internationally we need to help the government strengthen. Need sustained support for two or three years to prevent the people from collapsing. When it gets better we can start to pull out and they can go ahead. Give them some support and they can be strong and pick themselves up.
What advice would you give to potential investors?
As far as investment areas in Somalia, there is quite a lot that can happen in livestock and fishing. Agriculture is weak but things could change quite well. Unfortunately, a solid legal framework to protect investment is missing.
Honestly, I would be ready to invest in most of Africa. Look at how much GM is investing in Africa, and they are getting a humongous amount of money. China’s investments, even in places like Sudan, which you would not expect to be good, are huge. Furthermore, China does not add conditionality to their investments and they support and protect local governments while the West adds too much conditionality.