THE BLOG

Time to Build a Brighter Future for Young Somalis

09/05/2013 10:20 BST | Updated 09/05/2013 10:20 BST

For twenty years, Somalia has not just been a failed state, there hasn't been a state.

There is now a Government in Mogadishu, led by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.

Like many of the Ministers in his Government, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is not a traditional politician. He is an academic, an engineer turned educator, who has returned to help rebuild his country.

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud talks about taking Somalia from being a "failed nation" to being an "emerging nation".

His aspirations are understandable.

Every institution, every organisation, in Somalia needs to be rebuilt.

At this week's International Pledging Conference for Somalia, held at Lancaster House, African Heads of Government lined up to commit support to the new Somalia.

President Museveni of Uganda undertook to help train Somalia Army officers, Somali NCOs, and to help train the Somali Armed Forces in technology, so that they would be better able to deal with the threat of Al Shabab.

The reality is that two-thirds of Somalis are under 25.

A huge number of these young people are fed up with living in conditions of grinding poverty, with little prospect of work.

They are desperate for attention and I don't suppose it takes much more than a promise of a mobile telephone and some recognition for Al Shabab to enlist the support of younger Somalis. Al Shabab might have been driven militarily out of Mogadishu and many of Somalia's towns and villages, but there are those including the President of Somalia who would simply argue that Al Shabab has now melted into society.

The challenges facing Somalia are enormous.

  • Lack of food security;
  • Shortage of jobs;
  • Deforestation;
  • Widespread sexual violence;
  • Thousands of Somalis are either refugees in neighbouring countries, or internally displaced within Somalia;
  • There is a serious lack of infrastructure with a need for roads, hospitals, prisons, courts.

There is a need for functioning state institutions.

There is a need for security.

Although the Pledging Conference was held in London, and raised some £240 million of initial pledges to help build a new nation in Somalia, what is encouraging is the number of African countries who have pledged to support Somalia.

There is a growing recognition in Africa that there is a need for mutual security. What happens in Somalia will have a regional effect and although the changes in Somalia need to be Somali owned and Somali led, there is a clear recognition that what happens in Somalia will have an impact on Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Djibouti, and throughout Africa.

There is a growing recognition in Africa that whereas the United States and many European and developed economies flatline, Africa is the one part of the world which is seeing significant year on year growth.

But Africa still needs to attract foreign direct investment and having countries such as Somalia has been on the continent, doesn't help anyone in Africa.

No one can underestimate the challenges that confront Somalia, but there is some cause for optimism.

There have been no piracy attacks this year.

The international community has kept its promises to Somalia.

The African Union has increased numbers of peace keepers in the country.

Mauritius and the Seychelles have prosecuted Somali pirates, and those convicted have been imprisoned in Somaliland and Puntland in prisons funded by the international community.

The people of Somalia are building a country from the bottom up.

This clearly needs more than humanitarian assistance. It needs jobs. It needs investment. It needs long term security and State institutions that work.

This is why the UK and the international community have pledged sums of money to support Somali Armed Forces. They support the development and training of the Somali police - so that it can be a police force which people run towards, rather than run away from - and the international community is supporting investment in Somali Judges, Lawyers and Courts.

It is in no-one's interests that countries such as Somalia are failed states.

It is in everyone's interests to help the people of Somalia become a fully functioning working state, defeating terrorism and building a brighter future for young Somalis.

Sir Tony Baldry is co Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Somalia and Somaliland