The London Somalia Conference at Lancaster House on May 11 has renewed hope that the international community is ready to come in in full force to help the country improve its security, initiate economic and political reforms and fight Al Shabaab.
Somalia is still listed as the most politically fragile country in the world and needs all the international support it can get. It is encouraging that various countries in the West, the Middle East and Africa made pledges at the conference to help Somalia in various ways. It appears the election of President Mohammed Abdullahi Farmojo has renewed world interest in the country. This momentum must be maintained.
This is because the world cannot just sit back and let Somalia continue to be a terrorist haven because the impact of instability in that country is felt across the whole region and the rest of the world. For instance, at the height of piracy in the Indian Ocean around 2010, the scourge was costing global trade $7 billion a year.
All the participants at the conference concurred that security is vital to preventing the return of open conflict across Somalia, and for enabling its broader political and economic development. President Farmajo promised donors and international partners that his objective is to create a better Somalia that can secure itself and revive its economy.
Unlike most African leaders, President Farmajo said that international partners should hold his government to account should it fail. This shows that he means business, but he cannot achieve his objective without assistance from the wider world.
The Security Pact initiated at the conference is a major relief for the African Union Mission in Somalia, Amisom, and troop-contributing countries that comprise it. The force is overstretched; Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Uganda and Burundi, cannot afford to stay in Somalia indefinitely.
The pact involves improved co-ordination of international efforts in the training of the Somali National Army and the police, and has a detailed plan for Somali security reform so that the country can take responsibility for its own security and enable Amisom to start its drawdown programme by the end of 2018.
Already, the United Kingdom has pledged $27 million for training security forces, the United Arab Emirates is will be building a state-of-the-art training facility, while the US has offered to train and equip special forces to deal with Al Shabaab.
However, the insecurity in Somalia cannot be contained without addressing its root causes, such as abject poverty and mass unemployment among the youth, which is creating a fertile ground for terrorism to thrive and recruit new adherents. In this respect, Somalia must be assisted to come up with a robust economic recovery plan that involves investments in key areas such as livestock, agriculture and fisheries.
A stronger economy that offers jobs and generates domestic revenue will absorb the youth, estimated to comprise over 65 per cent of the population.
One of the greatest assets the Somali people have is their entrepreneurial skill, which they have proven all over the world. The world must help Somalia unlock this potential by supporting economic recovery. A secure Somalia means a secure region.