Some time back, I received a video clip on my phone via WhatsApp messaging about the opening of the fourth seaport in Somalia which has made news headlines in the country. The clip was about how local business leaders and community leaders had mobilised financial and human resources to build the port.
The sea port of Garacad is a new container terminal of 180 million dollars in the final phase of construction. The port is located in the Indian Ocean historic town of Garacad in the northeast central Mudug region of Puntland, a semi-autonomous state of Somalia.
This entirely private venture project was undertaken with the approval of the government and has been planned to open up the horn of Africa, central Somalia and the southeastern region of Ethiopia to more accessible trade routes to the wider world, particularly the Arabian Gulf and Asia.
The feasibility study of the 305km highway linking the seaport Garacad to the eastern border of Ethiopia via Galkacyo and Goldogob has also been completed and construction is expected to begin shortly.
Now that got me thinking, how African countries have been recipients of foreign assistance since their independence.
Well, we cannot deny that some of the international assistance such as some US development assistance programmes, especially the people- and country-centred ones such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the Africa Development Foundation, have shown lasting results in programmes that stimulate local economies and reduce aid dependency (such as sustainable agriculture, youth entrepreneurship, and improved access to power).
Despite these successes, many experts still argue that the provision of foreign assistance has, at times, developed a culture of dependency in Africa and fostered paternalism - as opposed to partnership - by the US and elsewhere.
The Garacad project points to the fact that, African governments need to take the initiative to scale up policies that spur democracy, creating the enabling environment to build prosperity in Africa through concrete priorities such as job creation, regional integration, and economic engagement.
In a period of rapid advancement worldwide, Africa’s development needs remain huge. Why? The major reason revolves around closing the infrastructure deficit in Africa. Of course, another challenge entails recognising the numerous barriers impeding economic growth and prosperity.
Indeed, President Uhuru Kenyatta is on record for urging African governments to move out of their cocoons to foster cooperation in the region to spur development on the continent. The Gara’ad seaport project is in sync with that philosophy.
The project also points to the power of local initiative and the prospects of local investments proving handy in the formulation and implementation of heavy infrastructural projects, without relying on foreign financial assistance, which in many cases, comes with requirements for concessions.
Such concessions, because they are designed to favour the donors, could undermine our sovereignty and tie the whole continent to the shackles of a heavy and unsustainable international debt burden.
Shilabukha is Research Fellow, Institute of Anthropology, Gender and African Studies at the University of Nairobi
Stay informed. Subscribe to our newsletter