Gareth Setati
Gareth Setati

Somalia kicks off its grand recovery plan

Somalia’s prime minister, Abdi Farah Shirdon, on October 28 launched the Somalia Development and Reconstruction Facility (SDRF), which was outlined in the Somali Compact, the overarching framework for all international donor and partner engagement with that country. The key objectives of the SDRF include the coordination and alignment of development assistance and increased use of country systems.

During the Kenya Westgate Mall terror attacks, you might remember we recently discussed on this blog about the need for a “Grand Plan”, similar or greater in scale to something like Europe’s “Marshall Plan” in the aftermath of WWII. We asked “where is Somalia’s Marshall Plan?”. The question was not asked so that we could mimic Europe’s Marshall Plan because the two scenarios are vastly different, but it was asked to question the scale of efforts to assist Somalia this far.

With yesterday’s announcement, there is vindication that our assessments of the needs of that troubled nation where correct. It had become patently clear that something massive, something certainly bigger than the African Union Mission in Somalia, had to be done by all stakeholders, both domestic and international, about the conflict situation in the world’s most failed state. The SDRF is reported to be in the tune of 1.5 billion pounds and it will address several challenges including Somalia’s national security and public-service delivery issues.

That is all fine. The question on all our lips should be what is different about this new plan? After all, Somalia has already had several interventions at various levels and from different dimensions, so isn’t this yet another intervention doomed to fail? For example, how will the plan prevent monies and resources ending in the wrong places like slush funds and so on? Is there even a new policy framework guiding this new plan?

It would seem that there is something different about the plan and that indeed there is a “new” policy framework. The Somali Compact mentioned above is based on an all-inclusive process to determine the priorities of Somalia from 2014 – 2016. The process is based on the principles outlined in the Busan Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation, which is an outcome document of the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness held in Busan, Republic of Korea, in 2011. One of the major foreign aid policy overhauls stressed in this document, and is reportedly upheld in the SDRF, is the principle of “ownership of development priorities by developing countries — countries should define the development model that they want to implement”.

The adoption and application of this particular principle is new in the sense that previous aid efforts where top-down in approach, with the major donor countries seeking to dictate or impose development priorities on the recipient countries. The principles of inclusiveness and ownership are vitally important and they have long been suggested by many leaders in the developing countries, not least African leaders under the auspices of the African Union. These principles anyhow happen to be much in line with the principles of Ubuntu for which scholars of Afrocentric leadership (eg Professor Hellicy C Ngambi) have been advocating for. As such, we must take a moment to appreciate the effort that has been put in by developing countries (especially African countries) in fighting for self-determination in this space as well — it finally seems as though the powers that be are starting to hear our voices — perhaps then the 21st century is Africa’s century after all.

Another matter for consideration regarding this developing story is the issue of Afro-pessimism: “This is just another intervention in Africa, it will fail because we all know the money will be siphoned off into the slush funds of politically-connected officials; it will serve quid pro quo politics as the failed state props up its security machinations in areas that will ensure the current Somali political leadership stay in political power indefinitely under the pretext of Somalia is still unstable and our job is not yet done” and so forth.

Of course much aid has gone to waste in many African countries in the past and the issue of “stayism” among African leaders must never be forgotten, but these and other issues should not obviate us from acting in good faith. If you think about it, if popular phrases like “with each passing moment is a chance to turn it all around” are any applicable, they must be applicable when it comes to cases such as Somalia. It is as if we must all agree that Somalia is one of those problems that one must hammer away at until something gives. The alternative is untenable. There is definitely much scope for rational problem solving in most human problems, and this new approach is one such rational attempt for which whether we should give it a chance is non-negotiable.

Responding to the announcement yesterday, someone on twitter said “the first step to overcome obstacles is to believe that the capacity of solutions exceeds the complexity of problems”.

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