The Impact of Globalization on Somali Culture

Since its inception in 1960 when it gained independence from Britain and Italy respectively after the merger of former British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland into what came to be known as the republic of Somalia, the impact of globalization on Somali culture has evidently been beneficial and detrimental in many aspects.

The idea that a nation cannot progress economically without a strong central government does not coincide with the current upsurge in globalization where its impact is being felt in every corner of the world including the “stateless” nation of Somalia whose economy experienced noticeable growth even with the absence of an effective central government. The immediate objective of this research is to uncover the negative and positive trends globalization has had on the Somali culture.

Definition of Globalization The term globalization resonates with a novel and emerging global topic whose definition in the myriads of available international relations textbooks and dictionaries conjure up varieties of rudimentary connotations. Charles W. Kegley, Jr. and Shannon N. Blanton, in their book, World Politics: Trend and Transformation, describe globalization as the integration of states, through increasing contact, communication, and trade, to create a common global culture for all humanity.

1 The creation of a common global culture will sound a worrisome anecdote for those determined to preserve their local heritage and dynamic cultures. A Brief introduction of Somalia Situated in the Horn of Africa, the Republic of Somalia has a land area of 637,540 square kilometers which makes it slightly smaller than the U. S. state of Texas. On a physical map Somalia resembles the figure seven or a rhino horn. Its terrain consists mostly of plateaus, plains, and highlands. Measuring 3,025km, Somalia has the longest coastline in the African continent followed by South Africa (2,798km).

It is bordered by the tiny nation of Djibouti (inhabited by Somalispeaking people) to the northwest, the Gulf of Aden and Yemen to the north, Kenya to the southwest, the Indian Ocean to the East, A postal stamp issued in Somalia in and Ethiopia to the West. The population of 1959 showing four men carrying a frankincense tree Somalia was estimated by the United Nations in 2003 at 9,890,000 and is placed at number 80 in population among the 193 nations of the world. 2 President Aden Abdille Osman became the first head of state of the Somali republic in 1960.

Unexploited Natural Resources Somalia is endowed with unexploited mineral resources and vast maritime resources that have been a source of contention since the collapse of the central government in 1991. The absence of a strong and effective government has left Somalia’s coastline prone to illegal fishing and dumping of toxic waste by foreign trawlers and the dreaded Mafia-an issue even voiced with deep concern by Mauritanian-born Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, former UN envoy to Somalia.

3 Somalia’s eastern coastline overlooking the Gulf of Aden has become a hotbed for piracy consequently bringing in millions of dollars and acting as a pedestal for an ailing economy. 4 Even though Somalia is not in the list of The Ogaden Basin covers 350,000 sq km oil producing countries, oil explorations carried by Conoco, Amoco, Chevron, and Philips before the military junta fell, suggest it could contain significant reserves.

5 Somalia’s unexploited natural resources include uranium and largely unexploited reserves of iron ore, tin, gypsum, bauxite, copper, salt, natural gas, and likely oil reserves. 6 Despite the abundance of unexploited natural resources, factors that have been preventing Somalis from attaining economic prosperity include religious extremism, foreign intervention, maritime piracy, human rights violations, insecurity, poor leadership, and general anarchy. “The Ogaden Basin covers 350,000 sq km and is the largest proven hydrocarbon bearing sedimentary basin in Ethiopia.

There are two large gas discoveries in the basin which contain estimated reserves of approximately 3Tcf (Calub and Hillala). ” 7 In the meantime, of all lands inhabited by Somalis, it is only the Ogaden region in Ethiopia that has yielded considerable and marketable oil with exploration, drilling, and extraction being implemented by Chinese companies. Globalization and Somalia Globalization has been around the world for a long time beginning with the interaction and integration of different societies through international trade and investment.

Somalia’s proximity to the Middle East and North Africa made it a center for commerce in historical antiquity with Somali sailors and merchants trading in myrrh, frankincense, ivory, and spices with ancient Egyptians, Phoenicians, Mycenaean, and Babylonians. Ancient Egyptians’ longest and earliest trading relationships in human history spanning 1300 years was their peaceful interaction with the Land of Punt. Official hieroglyphic records found at Marsa Gawasis, a port in Egypt, where preserved ancient Egyptian ship

fragments were found indicate that “this relationship started from 2450 BC during the reign of Sahura (as evidenced by the Palermo Stone) and continued through the reign of Pharaoh Ramses III (XX Dynasty). ” 8 Commodities thought to have been imported from Somalia by Queen Hatshepsut include gold and electrum (a compound for gold and silver), plant tissues that consisted of comminphora and myrrh, pistachia and ebony; animals and animal products including baboons, short-horned cattle, leopards, and ivory.

Other than Amenhotep IV, son of Amenhotep III and Queen Tye, who changed name to Akhenaton after imposing a monotheistic religion on his subjects, successions of Pharaohs of antiquity worshipped the sun. Dubbed the “Heretic Pharaoh”, Akhenaton worshipped his chosen deity that he named Aten. Sun-worshipping Egyptian pharaohs valued baboons because baboons habitually face eastwards before daybreak as a sign of announcing the rising of the sun while making spontaneous “wa-hoo” vocalization.

On the contrary, according to popular scientific belief, baboons face the rising sun in order to heat up bacteria found in their guts that aid or promote the digestion of food. Records retrieved from tomb engravings have shown that families of pharaohs kept baboons as pets. Various classifications of baboons include Papio papio, Papio hamadryas, Papio anubis, Papio ursinus, and Papio cynocephalus. Of these, Papio hamadryas and Papio anubis were the only species depicted in Egyptian paintings and mummifications.

Even though there could be similarities between Somalia’s previous era of globalization and the current one, today’s experience with globalization is to some degree more intense for Somalia and her trading partners. Somalia’s trial with capitalism got off the ground immediately it gained independence when the nation’s leaders adopted democracy as the preferred form of governance for the country. That dream was shuttered by the arrival of a military government that changed the nation’s governing style to Leninist-Marxist ideology.

Somalia’s current political instability excludes it from exporting finished and unfinished products and goods to many countries because of trade barriers. However, Somalia is currently the United State’s 172nd trading partner with $65 million in total (two way) Baboon species Papio hamadryas goods trade during 2008. It is also ineligible for trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). However, U. S. exports to Somali totaled $64 million in 2008 with exports mainly consisting of resins, nuts, and fruits.

9 The excesses committed against Somalia’s educated cream who would have been the torchbearers of globalization by the military government that ruled Somalia between the years 1969 and 1991 imperiled the political, social, and economic welfare of the entire nation. Crafted by an African economist, the phrase “African Disease” implies what is known in the west as “brain-drain” where multitudes of educated professionals migrate to the North America, Australia and New Zealand, and Europe in search of greener pastures.

Somalia has never been an exception as it suffered the same fate as other African nations because the most educated and experienced left the country enmasse. A substantial number of Somali professionals and academics brandishing PhDs and master’s degrees live in the Diaspora either as university professors, college lecturers, think-tanks in prestigious organizations or as administrators in specific fields requiring superior acumen. Colonial environment

Despite centuries of warfare within Somalis and with foreign powers, the Somali culture has remained relatively free from external contamination unlike other African cultures that disappeared as a result of European colonial superiority. The Somali peripatetic way of life accelerated cultural cosmopolitanism, economic interdependence, mental modernization, and regional dominance making Somalis to inhabit the most expansive territory that stretch from the Somali-inhabited region in Ethiopia to as far south as Kenya’s eastern and Northern provinces while in between traversing Djibouti and Somalia.

The dismemberment of Somalia into five regions depleted Somali cultural harmony. The emperors who ruled the Ogaden region of Ethiopia exploited local Somali culture with the dominant Map showing regions where the Somali Amharic national language language is spoken infusing alien wordings into the Somali language. Likewise, Somalis in Kenya found their cultural and linguistic expansion interrupted by the elevation and imposition of Kiswahili as the nation’s lingua franca. In Djibouti, 114 years of French colonial rule retarded the Somali language.

It was only in 1972 when the Somali language came into the glare of publicity after the official writing script developed by Shire Jama Ahmed became the unanimously accepted version in favor of the Latin and Osmaniya scripts-orthography invented in the early twentieth century by the Majertinia poet and ruler, Osman Yusuf Kenadid. 10 Global Dynamism of Somali Culture Somalia is a homogenous nation with a mix of rich culture. Somalis speak the same language which is Somali; they have one religion which is Islam, and they enjoy similar customs. It is the clan that determines one’s place in society.

A small minority group, the Somali Bantu, considered the most vulnerable communities in Somalia, has been targeted for blanket resettlement in the US after suffering chronic discrimination and predatory attacks by ethnic Somalis. 11 In the past two decades, Somali exposure to foreign ways of life greatly impacted previously existing inter-tribal relations among various groups. In some instances, improved intercommunication due to amalgamation of communal groups may be attributed to the alleviation of major barriers pertaining to intermarriage.

Clans who exclusively observed endogamous marriages due to customary restrictions have eased imposing constraints by allowing partners to partake in the formulation of exogamy thus leading to the creation of a wholly new concept of marital relationships never before seen in Somali culture. Poetry and prose play great roles in Somali daily life even in this era of globalization where it is used as a means of communication. Somalia has been described as a “nation of poets”. The most famous Somali poet was Seyyid Mohamed Abdille Hassan who was dubbed “mad mullah” by the British colonial administration in the late 1900s.

Perhaps, the first European to venture into Somali territory who meticulously described the culture and language of the Somali people was Sir Richard Burton. About the people and their language, he wrote: “The country teems with “poets, poetasters, poetitos, and poetaccios: Every man has his recognized position in literature as accurately defined as though he had been reviewed in a century of magazines-the fine ear of this people causing them to take the greatest pleasure in harmonious sounds and poetical expressions, whereas a false quantity or a prosaic phrase excite their violent indignation.

” 12 Several major universities across the globe have taken the responsibility of either teaching or collecting materials related to the advancement of the Somali language. One such example is the University of Indiana in Bloomington 13 which boosts a large collection on Somali literature deposited by the Somali Studies International Association. These materials were acquired by the university with support from the US Department of Education Title VI grant. 14 The University of Ohio has included the teaching of Somali into its African studies program.

Steve Howard, who is director of the program, was recently honored with the president’s award by Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the current president of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia. He was also presented with a statuette reading, “Thank you for being a friend of the Somali community. “15 Several European countries teach the Somali language to Somali children. Higher institutions of learning such as the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) which is part of the University of London, the Swedish Academy in Uppsala, and Rome University have specialized study programs preserved for the Somali language.

16 Improved Telecommunications Somalia has seen dramatic improvement in communications. According to a study carried out in sub-Saharan Africa by Benjamin Powell who is an Assistant Professor of economics at Suffolk University and a senior economist with the Beacon Hill Institute, Somalia moved from Somalia Telecommunications the 29th place to the eighth in terms of telephone landlines use per 1,000 of population since it became stateless in 1991.

It ranks 16th in phone mobile use, 11th in internet users, and it ranks 27th in households with televisions. It takes three days for a telephone line to be installed; the bill for a monthly landline costs $10 with unlimited local calls and international calls cost 50 cents a minute. Due to the explosion of internet cafes, web access costs 50 cents per minute. Using a mobile phone in Somalia is “generally cheaper and clearer than a call from anywhere else in Africa”, according to the economist.

17 The nation’s three biggest mobile phone companies, Hormuud Telecom 18, Nationlink 19, and Telecom Somalia 20 have the benefit of 1. 8 million customers who enjoy some of the cheapest rates in the world. 21 Positive Implications of Globalization The thousands of Somalis who settled outside of Somalia’s borders have tremendously altered the political, social, and economic landscape of the Somali nation by injecting millions of dollars in the form of remittances into a careworn, impecunious, and warravaged nation resulting in the opening of the gates of globalization.

In its March 2009 report, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) office for Somalia, estimated that Somali Diaspora remittances to the Horn of Africa nation amounted to over $2 billion in remittance flows. 22 According to the authors of the UNDP report, Somali Diaspora organizations may be credited for supporting or establishing service delivery Modern air travel in Somalia facilities by providing regular funding flows meant for the payment of salaries in schools or hospitals. The significance of globalization and international political economy necessitate the transfer of goods and services.

Thus, improved social interaction, enhanced communication, abundance and accessibility of maritime routes within Somalia’s coastline allows Somali businessmen to balance supply and demand in almost every region of the country regardless of daily hostilities. Depending on the size or intricacy of developmental assistance, various Diaspora groups fund multifarious schemes not only in the health and education sectors but in construction, feeding centers, orphanage homes, digging of water wells, farming, banking, manufacturing,

fishing, and the transportation sector. When the military junta was in power, Somalia had only one national university. Thanks to the generous contributions of the Somali Diaspora and international organizations currently Somalia has over a dozen universities with Mogadishu University ranked 54 among 100 African universities in 2010, according to an international evaluation of world universities. 23

Professions that were once frowned upon by Somalia’s previously closed society have now turned out to be popular especially among aspiring youth residing in North America, Europe, and Eurasia. Massive resettlement initiated by Western nations and other selfpropelled emigrational movements or undertakings enabled the heralding of a plethora of talented writers, internationally-acclaimed supermodels, and reputable artists.

Modest education, easy contact with agents and publishing houses, access to computers, the internet, and general media have elevated the bulk of books, documentaries, and films consequently broadening the number of fans and readers. In the unrecognized breakaway republic of Somaliland and in the eastern autonomous region of Puntland, the semblance of peace has triggered a progression of various competing air travel companies, foreignfunded educational institutions, maritime trade and investment.

Mogadishu University Negative Effects of Globalization General anarchy in southern Somalia and the rise of religious militancy coupled with foreign interference in Somali sovereignty have set bad precedents and adversely impacted the lives of ordinary Somalis. The proliferation of small arms and unsecured borders has forced many young Somalis to take sides in every major or minor conflict. Children as young as ten years make the bulk of child soldiers.

Islamists who have laid claim to a bigger part of southern and central Somalia have imposed stringent measures on schools funded by the Diaspora by placing a ban on the teaching of English and the Sciences. They have also slapped a ban on A wounded Somali child soldier western-style haircuts, western fashion, and western manners; in their efforts to fight vice, all cinema halls and video dens remain closed indefinitely; all men are required to have their trousers above the ankle otherwise they risk flogging or imprisonment or both; owners

of television and radio stations have been told to refrain from playing music or else risk arrest and to make matters worse, the local VOA and BBC transmissions have been taken off the air and their equipments transferred to other radio stations owned by the Islamists. The rise of Islamic militancy has not only affected Somalia but has also become a major political force in the Arab-Muslim world thus fostering chaos in “failed” states such as