Horn Of Africa Region Has Huge Potential
The IGAD executive secretary Mahboub M. Maalim was my guest at mindspeak this weekend. He is a Kenyan from Garissa and a passionate advocate for the Horn of Africa. IGAD stands for The Intergovernmental Authority on Development and encompasses Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, North and South Sudan and Uganda. To an outsider, the immediate association is surely one of 'ungoverned spaces' and of wars of various different intensities. This past week the Ethiopia Eritrea skirmish, the viral #STOPKONY campaign, the still unresolved Sudan pipeline dispute and apparently high tides reducing the pirate threat bleeped on my Radar. IGAD was originally hatched to bring peace and stability to this region. Peace surely remains the overarching narrative. The executive secretary was bullish about the prospects for peace and in particular about peace for Somalia.
During the last few weeks, Turkish Airlines started direct flights between Turkey and Mogadishu. All kinds of luminaries have stopped in Mogadishu of late. It has become the in place. I have said before that I believe that we are sitting on a lake of hydrocarbons from the Horn of Africa down to Mozambique and I saw a report in the British Guardian which said Somalia might have the same oil reserves as Kuwait. The executive secretary, of course, comes from a line of pastoralists and he told me about how 3.5m camels were exported every year from the port of Djibouti. William J Hague, the British Foreign Secretary, mentioned that the Somali diaspora sends more money back home in remittances than the entire foreign aid that Somalia receives. Of course, don't forget the LAPPSET project which is intended to open up the Horn and the hinterland to the World. These snippets speak to a new narrative, a very nascent one admittedly.
I started my introduction with Vinod Khosla's quote: ''The future is not seen in the rear view mirror.'' There are plenty of curve balls. Will Omar Bashir and Salva Kiir kiss and make up? How about Isaias Afewerki and Meles Zenawi? Are the al Shabaab now 'deadenders'? Will we handle our election with proper despatch? The World is now flat as a pancake and there will surely come a day when the Horn of Africa becomes a hot investment destination. I cite the example of Bob Geldof who first became famous as the front-man of Irish punk rock group the Boomtown Rats, but his work on Africa has overshadowed his early rock career, with his name forever tied to the band aid single and live aid concerts that raised millions of dollars for African aid. He is now the chairman of an Africa-focused private equity fund which said earlier this month it had raised $200 million from investors. Dubbed 8 miles, the fund plans to invest in companies that can develop into "African champions."