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The Horn of Africa States Entrepreneurship Should be Driving the Region

By Dr. Suleiman Walhad
June 30th, 2023

We have just rounded up the half-year 2023 and are moving on towards the second half of 2023. This would, of course, take place incrementally, in days and weeks and months and at the end, we might find ourselves still in the same situation we started with in the beginning of the year, with nothing really tangible having occurred in the Horn of Africa States region. The single state format would still be there, the terror groups in parts of the region would be operating as usual, the foreign parties would be as active as they were always in the region, the leaders of the region would be paying lip service to development and the populations of the region would continue to be suffering from the same old ills.

In a nutshell the economies of the region would still be weak, and uncertainties would continue to cloak development. Development would still be in the minds of people without nothing really happening and foreign assistance would still be one of the main pillars for the financial needs of the region, which would continue to make it the begging bowl, its leadership has made it to be. Many would still be blaming the ruling parties without pointing fingers at the opposition parties who play into the hands of the NGOs and world international organizations that thrive on the plight of weak countries and regions, which the Horn of Africa States presents itself to be.

The region does not pride itself with anything new, no innovations, no inclusiveness and being part of geopolitical tensions that have really nothing to do with it. These only erode away the region’s meagre resources and keep it distraught and disrupted economically and socially and, indeed, politically.  The region’s entrepreneurship, unlike those of other nations, still follows the old infrastructures of sticking to the known. They do not even explore the next village or town or region within the same country, let alone the business possibilities of the neighboring countries. Perhaps, some trade takes place, but where does it occur regional entrepreneurs taking hold of the region and serving the wide 157 million market?

The blame game continues to be on the politicians as if the politicians have magic wands. The do not! Businesspeople and entrepreneurs are equally to blame for the underdevelopment of the region as much as all other segments of the populations. What the region’s people do not realize is that no development would take place in the region unless there is a will on the part of the people of the region, no matter where they are stationed – in one country or another within the Horn of Africa States region.

It is where it becomes increasingly necessary for the entrepreneurs of the region to play better roles than they are currently doing. Why should the chambers of commerce and industries of the region not be meeting? And for that matter, why shouldn’t the bankers of the region and financiers of the region not meeting and why shouldn’t the industrialists of the region not be meeting, and why shouldn’t food producers not be discussing on ways of improving food production in the region? And there are many whys and questions?

What has happened to the entrepreneurial spirit of the region and why is it disappearing into other parts of the world, which has nothing to do with the region? We know that there are Horn African entrepreneurs operating in many other countries of the world. Should they not be putting something back into the region, giving jobs to the many unemployed youth of the region instead of just building residential units for themselves and their families, which do not add one iota to the economies of the region?

The fact that foreign media emphasizes always on the problems of the region and its internal conflicts should not put back the region’s entrepreneurs to investing in the countries of the region. The expectation of an entrepreneur to have smooth runs of business is a false proposition. No business runs without risks and the region, of course, has its own nature of risks in addition to others. But it also offers substantial opportunities for the intrepid investor and especially those from the region. Dealing with the weak legal systems is part of the proposition and being involved would only help improving the legal infrastructures. It is where practice makes perfection or close to perfection. If one does not operate in the region, it would be difficult to know where the weaknesses lie for correction and improvement.

The conflicts of the region and its internal confrontations as propagated by foreign media is not really as bad as they make it to be. The region’s entrepreneurs need to be forwarding the region’s aspirations in their own ways. Why shouldn’t there be a Somali bank operating in Ethiopia and vice versa and why shouldn’t there be leasing companies or Ethiopian’ shoe making industries operating in the region, instead of confining themselves in their own environments? Shouldn’t there be chains of coffee shops or regional malls spreading throughout the region?

The regional entrepreneurs should stop running away from the region and should trust the region. It offers many opportunities in terms of resource exploitation, manufacturing, finance and banking, insurance, services such as tourism and many others. The beautiful beaches and coasts of the region today appear to be empty of any regional maritime activities – no yachting, no commercial shipping, no fishing and, indeed, no chains of hotels attracting, at least, some of the millions of tourists that travel the world. Many of the region’s entrepreneurs, indeed, run like those foreign parties that make the region as untouchable as they can make it to be. The Horn of Africa States region and its entrepreneurs need to recalculate the economic dividends the region offers, which only require an innovative entrepreneurial spirit and, of course, cooperation and working together to develop the region, and take on the risks head on.

The Horn of Africa States region needs to embrace its own regional entrepreneurs. Likewise, the region’s entrepreneurs need to adopt and embrace their own region, despite the badmouthing of others from near and far. There is, indeed, a need for the entrepreneurial spirit of the region to permeate the region. Things cannot be left to chance. It is people who matter and make changes and the old folks of the region worked in that spirit. The new folks of the region should revert to those spirits of long bygone days and adopt themselves to new and modern ways of handling issues. The current fragmentation of the region in the political arena does not pose well for the region and business should be pulling the region together. It is where interests are created that link the region together for mutual and beneficial cooperation.

The more chaotic the region is or becomes, the more it is important and necessary for the region to take advantage of its entrepreneurial spirit to build a better future for the large youthful population of the region. Many work on further fragmenting the region, which plays into the hands of the foreign parties that exploit the region for their own interests. Unity and cooperation is the only way that such foreign interests can be checked on their tracks. The more fragmented the region becomes, the weaker it would be, and it is where it becomes necessary for the entrepreneurs of the region to create business and commerce among themselves to keep the region stronger and united.