NAIROBI (AlertNet) – Somalia risks exporting more pirates and terrorists because mass unemployment among its youths has deprived a generation of hope and left many vulnerable to radicalisation, the United Nations said in a report on Friday.
The Horn of Africa country has one of the world's highest youth unemployment rates at 67 percent. Seventy-three percent of Somalia's population is younger than 30 with a large proportion of them idle - neither working or in school.
Many have known nothing but conflict. Firstly, civil war which broke out after warlords toppled dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and more recently, an insurgency by al Shabaab Islamic militants that has killed tens of thousands and uprooted hundreds of thousands more.
Hopes of a new era were boosted by this month's inauguration of new leader Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, an academic with a background in reconciling feuding clans, who used his first speech as president to call for an end to terrorism and piracy.
But the U.N. Development Programme's Somalia Human Development Report 2012 warned that the underlying problems faced by Somalia's youngsters threaten peace efforts.
Among youths aged 14 to 29 – who make up the bulk of militia fighters and criminal gangs – 74 percent of females and 61 percent of males are unemployed.
"Lost opportunities, unclear identity and a growing sense of marginalization among youth in an environment of state collapse, violent conflict and economic decline provide fertile ground for youth radicalization," the report said.
"If this reality continues to be neglected, the fallout will be disastrous both for Somalia and, through the continued mushrooming of terrorist groups, the world."
The report surveyed 3,300 households to calculate a Youth Frustration Index. The most common reason young people gave for their frustration was the lack of employment opportunities, according to the poll.
The highest levels of frustration were found in south-central Somalia, the epicentre of the war, where a score of 4.3 out of 5 was recorded. Nationally, the frustration index was 3.96.
"Until Somalia's young generation is equipped with the opportunities to engage in dialogues and decisionmaking related to reconciliation, peacebuilding, state-building and overall development, at community and political levels, they will increasingly be distracted by other less constructive, risky behaviours," the report said.
Besides conflict and famine, Somalia has also been plagued by piracy. Last year, Somali piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean netted $160 million, and cost the world economy some $7 billion.
Tougher action against pirates over the last few years has driven them to become more involved in land-based kidnappings of foreign tourists and aid workers in northern Kenya and Somalia.
The report called on donors to focus more on the root causes of conflict and longer-term development assistance to Somalia.
In 2008, each person in Somalia received $80 in humanitarian aid and $20 in development aid. As a result, projects focusing on agriculture and the environment have been neglected, increasing the risk of hunger and famine, the report said.
"The famine in 2011 signifies an increasingly dismal future, if approaches to both conflict and development do not significantly change," the report stated.
Somalia would rank 165 out of 170 countries around the world in terms of human development if internationally comparable data were available, the report found. The three key dimensions used to measure human development are education, income and health.