Somali people ‘benefit’ from piracy, says Dr. Anja Shortland

Published: Tuesday 6 March 2012
Images of central Garowe: The left one taken in February 2002, the right in June 2009
Images of central Garowe: The left one taken in February 2002, the right in June 2009

Dr Anja Shortland’s research on how piracy ransom money provides a ‘boost’ to the Somali economy has led to recent articles on BBC News and CNN, as well as an appearance on Radio 4’s Today programme recently.

The Senior Lecturer in Economics and Finance’s study is based on a combination of statistics on light emission at night, local market prices, and high-resolution satellite imagery that she has been monitoring since 2000.

“There are a lot of people who benefit somewhat from piracy,” the Brunel University lecturer told the Today programme.

“The wages of local casual labourers have improved, and cattle prices have gone up, indicating local investment.”

Her report said that pirates received an estimated £46 million in ransom payments in 2009, and that Somali culture means that wealth is often shared throughout extended families. The depreciation of the Somali shilling has also halted.

“It’s a vast amount of money but not compared to the amount of money that we spend containing the problem. It’s not the coastal communities that get this benefit. The money is mainly spent inland in the major regional centres.”

Dr Shortland went on to discuss the other ways in which money reaches these communities, suggesting that increased consumption leads to more employment opportunities in security to protect cars and luxury houses.

She said that ransom money was having a ‘developmental effect’ on Somalia, with no evidence that pirates are co-operating with Al-Shabaab – a local militant Islamist group that has been linked with al Qaeda.

Dr. Anja Shorthand’s report on Somali pirates and the economy, Treasure Mapped: Using Satellite Imagery to Track the Developmental Effects of Somali Piracy, is available to download from the Chatham House website.

Page last updated: Wednesday 28 March 2012