Two decades of civil war and the absence of a functioning government has made Somalia one of the world’s most unstable countries. The new government has initiated wide-ranging reform processes.

Facts about Somalia

The flag for Somalia
Life expectancy
The flag for Somalia
GNI pr capita
The flag for Somalia
Percentage poor people (below 1.25$)
The flag for Somalia
The flag for Somalia

Bilateral assistance million kroner

Bilateral assistance million kroner

Bilateral assistance million kroner

Somalia is the world’s fifth poorest country. For many Somalis, the lack of basic services and security is part of everyday reality.

Various UN organisations estimate that approximately 70 per cent of the population are below the age of 30. Life expectancy is roughly 50 years.

Around 38 per cent of the population are illiterate.

Substantial economic growth is impeded by:

  • a challenging security situation
  • political insecurity
  • poor framework conditions for investors
  • weak institutions.


Historical introduction: Somalia and Norwegian development aid

Somalia has been fraught by a civil war since the end of the 1980s, resulting in great suffering for the civilian population. Different clans and groups including the Islamist militant group al-Shabaab have battled for power.

In the period 2010−12, Somalia was struck by a catastrophic famine, and the period 2016−2017 was also dominated by drought and food shortage. A military force from the African Union (AU) has contributed significantly to stabilisation.

Since 2012, Somalia has had a parliament and an internationally recognised president.

Norwegian development aid to the country has increased considerably since 2000. Norway has supported work on a new constitution and the establishment of democratic institutions. Other important sectors for Norwegian aid have been emergency assistance and the costs of receiving Somali refugees in Norway.

In Somalia, Norwegian NGOs such as the Norwegian Refugee Council have been able to deliver vital assistance to local communities despite the difficult security situation.



Somalia held a presidential election on 8 February 2017. Mohammed Abdullahi Farmajo emerged as the outright winner. Hassan Khaire, who has dual Somali-Norwegian citizenship, became prime minister while Mohamed Osman Jawari, also with dual Somali-Norwegian citizenship, was re-elected as speaker of the Somali Parliament.

The election was much more representative than earlier elections in Somalia. The handover of power from the former to the incumbent president was peaceful.

Somalia adopted a new constitution in 2012. It was due to be revised in 2016 but this process has been overshadowed by other processes.

The revision of the constitution is essential for key processes in Somalia, including the:

  • distribution of responsibilities and resources between federal and state levels
  • status of Mogadishu
  • court system
  • citizenship issue.

Public financial management and corruption

The government has initiated important reforms relating to public financial management and corruption. Improvements to public financial management have been made, and international donors, including Norway, have provided substantial support in this area.

The areas given priority include the normalisation of relations with the financial institutions and increased tax revenues. Increased tax revenues are crucial in boosting the state’s ability to deliver services to the population.

Somalia is still ranked at the bottom of international corruption indices.

Corruption has a stronghold, including in:

  • the security sector
  • public contracts
  • the acquisition of public land.

Humanitarian situation

Somalia experienced a catastrophic drought in 2017 affecting a geographical area equivalent to almost the whole of Somalia.

Somaliland and Puntland are more resistant than southern Somalia due to better governance. They also have a stronger diaspora that sends money to their families. However, the situation there was also dramatic.

Domestic animals died and food and water supplies were almost non-existent after more than a year of scanty rainfall.

Altogether 6.2 million people were affected by an uncertain food supply situation. Almost three million of them were already living under emergency conditions.

Food production in Somalia in 2016 amounted to only 50 per cent of normal production as a result of two poor rainy seasons. Consequently, wells and granaries were empty and pastures were unusable. A food shortage, increasing prices and a lack of seed corn ensued.

The most serious famine scenario was averted because of rain, water in the rivers and targeted humanitarian assistance. The situation remains serious.


The security situation in Somalia in both Mogadishu and the rest of the country is extremely challenging.

Targeted killings of employees in the security sector and other public officials continue.

Terrorist attacks in Mogadishu affected the civilian population in 2017. Hotels where politicians and public officials stay are an attractive target for the terrorist movement al-Shabaab.

Great pressure has been brought to bear on the terrorist movement in 2017.

The reform of the security service is slow, and has been further delayed by political infighting and a long-drawn out election process.

The Somali national army is a patchwork of clan militias while there is no political agreement on national security.

Freedom of speech and freedom of the press

Freedom of speech is under attack from both public and private actors. There are often reports of the harassment and imprisonment of journalists and media workers.

Advocates for human rights and civil society are also vulnerable in Somalia. This applies regardless of what human rights issues they are engaged in.

Freedom of speech is also an important tool for those who work in the fields of education, health and clean drinking water.

Human rights

Several organisations report:

  • random arrests
  • use of torture
  • extrajudicial executions
  • enforced disappearances in connection with the fight against terror.

Violence and the repression of women are widespread in Somalia.

There is a high incidence of:

  • rape
  • sexual harassment
  • polygamy
  • child, early and forced marriage
  • genital mutilation.

Violence in intimate relationships targeting girls and women is widespread, but is socially accepted. This type of violence seldom has consequences for the perpetrator. In addition, there is a lack of data documenting violence against women.

An update from UNICEF in 2016 suggests that 95 per cent of all women in Somalia are victims of genital mutilation. Norwegian Church Aid and Save the Children cooperate on reducing the extent of this practice, and also collaborate with the authorities to draw up action plans against genital mutilation and sexualised violence.

The Norwegian Embassy in Nairobi and Norad have provided NOK 17.5 million in funding for this work over a period of three years from 2014 to 2016. Contact with religious and traditional groups is of central importance in efforts to change attitudes to genital mutilation.

The self-declared republic of Somaliland

Somaliland is an independent republic in Somalia that has had self-government since 1991. During this time, it has never submitted to the rule of the Somali authorities in Mogadishu.

The democratic process in Somaliland is beset by constant postponements of planned parliamentary and presidential elections.

The presidential election was held in November 2017. The parliamentary election has been postponed until October 2018.

This means that parliament in Somaliland will have continued sitting for 12 years without a renewed mandate.

Somaliland is not recognised by the international community. Development aid to projects in Somaliland is therefore reported as aid to Somalia.

Norwegian development cooperation with Somalia

Norwegian development aid backs up Somalia’s development plan – National Development Plan.

Strengthening national and regional institutions is of central importance in Norway’s development cooperation with Somalia. These interventions are intended to strengthen the state’s core functions and revenue generation. Norway has scaled up its support for stabilisation to promote speedy delivery of results to the population in line with the stabilisation strategy of the authorities.

On account of the security situation, there is no Norwegian embassy in Somalia. Bilateral aid to Somalia is therefore managed by the Norwegian Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. Embassy representatives travel frequently to Somalia.

Norway helps to ensure that the population have better access to collective benefits. These include:

  • basic infrastructure
  • health services
  • schooling
  • job creation in collaboration with the authorities

In addition, Norway supports:

  • reconciliation and conflict resolution projects
  • maritime safety
  • resource management.

Economy and the business sector

Somalia’s economy is heavily dependent on imports.

Imports constitute two-thirds of BNP, meaning that there is a substantial trade deficit. This deficit is largely financed by cash transfers from Somalis who have migrated (diaspora) and development aid.

In 2016, the state budget for the federal government was a modest USD 248 million. The administrative and security sector stood for more than 85 per cent of the costs.

Somalia’s infrastructure has large deficiencies. This contributes to high costs for the business sector.

Cattle farming constitutes more than 80 per cent of exports and is a main employer in Somalia.

Via a multiannual agreement with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Norway has supported the fisheries sector in Somalia. Norway has contributed to business development through the construction of better-adapted boats and training in boat-building and fisheries.

In 2016, Norway’s Oil for Development programme started to map the potential for a programme in Somalia.

Democratic development and stabilisation

Norway has supported the federal authorities’ preparations for the presidential election in 2017.

Legislative assemblies have received Norwegian support for capacity building. The same applies to the work on a new Political Parties Act.

Norway has helped to bolster the state’s core functions such as:

  • local authorities
  • key ministries
  • immigration authorities
  • salary payments to government employees at federal and regional level
  • improved generation of tax revenues.

Creation of new regional states

A process of forming new regional states has been ongoing since 2013. In addition to Puntland, four new regional states have now been formed in Somalia.

These are Jubaland (2013), South West State (2014), Galmudug (2015) and Hiran-Shabelle (2016). Norway supported the establishment of the last-mentioned state.


Support to education is prioritised and is channelled via UNICEF and Norwegian NGOs.

Norwegian support via NGOs in the period 2013−2016 meant that 117 000 school pupils received learning materials while 3800 teachers and other school staff received training.


Over 50 per cent of Norwegian development aid, including emergency assistance, is channelled via NGOs.

Norad supported the efforts of Norwegian NGOs in Somalia to the tune of approximately NOK 174 million in 2016.

The organisations that received support were:

  • Norwegian Red Cross
  • Norwegian Church Aid
  • Save the Children Norway
  • ADRA-Norway
  • Kaalmo Health Organisation
  • Norwegian Refugee Council
  • Oslo Centre for Peace and Human Rights
  • Development Fund
  • NIS - Nordic International Support Foundation
  • Norwegian People’s Aid
  • Digni
  • YME Foundation

All of the largest Norwegian NGOs are present in Nairobi, and are mainly financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Norad.

In Somalia, NGO’s chiefly support humanitarian assistance with a focus on:

  • education
  • water/sanitation
  • food security
  • protection
  • humanitarian disarmament.
Published 27.08.2014
Last updated 19.07.2018