Riyadh, KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA – President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud of Somalia participated in the Saudi-African summit in Riyadh yesterday, outlining Somalia’s goals of improving security, diversifying its economy, and increasing regional trade and investment.
The President thanked Saudi Arabia for being a vital partner, supporting Somalia’s fight against al-Shabaab militants, providing economic assistance, and delivering humanitarian aid during droughts. He emphasized Somalia’s commitment to further cooperation.
Call for Ceasefire and Aid in Gaza, Aligned with Foreign Policy Objectives
President Hassan Sheikh called for an immediate Gaza ceasefire and humanitarian access, aligning with Somalia’s commitment to stability and humanitarian relief. While the President maintained a balanced tone, the contrasting perspectives with the Prime Minister illustrate the complex dynamics shaping Somalia’s evolving foreign policy agenda. On November 2nd, Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre controversially compared Israel’s actions in Gaza to Al-Shabaab, labeling both terrorist groups seeking to divide Muslims.
Security Strategy Essential for Economic Growth
President Hassan Sheikh noted Saudi Arabia’s effective economic diversification as a model for Somalia as it aims for debt relief eligibility. However, Somalia’s economic potential – including in agriculture, livestock, energy, and ICT – relies on tackling the ongoing security threat of al-Shabaab. Though pushed out of Mogadishu, the militants still mount deadly attacks. Improving security across Somalia remains crucial for investment and growth. The government is implementing comprehensive military, policing, and intelligence efforts to achieve this.
Integration into Continental and Regional Trade Networks
The country’s membership in the African Continental Free Trade Area and plans to join the East African Community and Arab Free Trade Area this year exemplify its strategy of positioning itself firmly within regional and global trade networks to encourage investment and cooperation.
Emphasizing Somalia’s readiness for business, the President Hassan Sheikh highlighted its strategic coastal location, youthful population, and untapped natural resources. He invited foreign investment to develop infrastructure, tap resources, and drive sectors like agriculture and renewable energy. This would spur Somalia’s own economic goals while boosting food and energy security across the region.
In engaging with Saudi Arabia and promoting its strategic objectives, Somalia signals its determination to build security, encourage investment, and anchor itself firmly within emerging African and Middle Eastern trade networks. President Hasan Sheikh conveyed this vision clearly during the summit.
Navigating Internal Divisions
However, President Hassan Sheikh faces political divisions and power struggles within Somalia that pose challenges to his leadership. As he gains prominence abroad, it remains uncertain whether this will bolster his ability to resolve internal tensions and bring together disparate factions behind his stated vision for the country’s future security and economic growth. Analysts will be watching to see if Mohamud’s efforts to raise Somalia’s profile regionally and globally will strengthen his hand domestically, or if endemic political dynamics within the country will hinder unity and reform efforts. Mohamud’s ability to deliver on the ambitious agenda put forth in Riyadh will likely require deft management of competing centers of power in Mogadishu and building genuine buy-in for his policy platform.