Facts about Somalia

World Facts Index

Somalia Mosque Britain withdrew from British Somaliland in 1960 to allow its protectorate to join with Italian Somaliland and form the new nation of Somalia. In 1969, a coup headed by Mohamed SIAD Barre ushered in an authoritarian socialist rule that managed to impose a degree of stability in the country for a couple of decades. After the regime's collapse early in 1991, Somalia descended into turmoil, factional fighting, and anarchy. In May 1991, northern clans declared an independent Republic of Somaliland that now includes the administrative regions of Awdal, Woqooyi Galbeed, Togdheer, Sanaag, and Sool. Although not recognized by any government, this entity has maintained a stable existence and continues efforts to establish a constitutional democracy, including holding municipal, parliamentary, and presidential elections. The regions of Bari, Nugaal, and northern Mudug comprise a neighboring self-declared autonomous state of Puntland, which has been self-governing since 1998 but does not aim at independence; it has also made strides toward reconstructing a legitimate, representative government but has suffered some civil strife. Puntland disputes its border with Somaliland as it also claims portions of eastern Sool and Sanaag. Beginning in 1993, a two-year UN humanitarian effort (primarily in the south) was able to alleviate famine conditions, but when the UN withdrew in 1995, having suffered significant casualties, order still had not been restored. A two-year peace process, led by the Government of Kenya under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), concluded in October 2004 with the election of Abdullahi YUSUF Ahmed as President of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia and the formation of an interim government, known as the Somalia Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs). The Somalia TFIs include a 275-member parliamentary body, known as the Transitional Federal Assembly (TFA), a transitional Prime Minister, Nur "Adde" Hassan HUSSEIN, and a 90-member cabinet. The TFIs are based on the Transitional Federal Charter, which outlines a five-year mandate leading to the establishment of a new Somali constitution and a transition to a representative government following national elections. While its institutions remain weak, the TFG continues to reach out to Somali stakeholders and work with international donors to help build the governance capacity of the TFIs and work towards national elections in 2009. In June 2006, a loose coalition of clerics, business leaders, and Islamic court militias known as the Council of Islamic Courts (CIC) defeated powerful Mogadishu warlords and took control of the capital. The Courts continued to expand militarily throughout much of southern Somalia and threatened to overthrow the TFG in Baidoa. Ethiopian and TFG forces, concerned over links between some CIC factions and the al-Qaida East Africa network and the al-Qaida operatives responsible for the bombings of the US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998, intervened in late December 2006, resulting in the collapse of the CIC as an organization. However, the TFG continues to face violent resistance from extremist elements, such as the al-Shabaab militia previously affiliated with the now-defunct CIC.

Geography of Somalia

Eastern Africa, bordering the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, east of Ethiopia
10 00 N, 49 00 E
total: 637,657 sq km
water: 10,320 sq km
land: 627,337 sq km
Area comparative:
slightly smaller than Texas
Land boundaries:
total: 2,340 km
border countries: Djibouti 58 km, Ethiopia 1,600 km, Kenya 682 km
3,025 km
Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 200 NM
principally desert; December to February - northeast monsoon, moderate temperatures in north and very hot in south; May to October - southwest monsoon, torrid in the north and hot in the south, irregular rainfall, hot and humid periods (tangambili) between monsoons
mostly flat to undulating plateau rising to hills in north
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: Shimbiris 2,416 m
Natural resources:
uranium and largely unexploited reserves of iron ore, tin, gypsum, bauxite, copper, salt, natural gas, likely oil reserves
Natural hazards:
recurring droughts; frequent dust storms over eastern plains in summer; floods during rainy season
Environment current issues:
famine; use of contaminated water contributes to human health problems; deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification
Geography - note:
strategic location on Horn of Africa along southern approaches to Bab el Mandeb and route through Red Sea and Suez Canal

Population of Somalia

9,558,666 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 44.4% (male 1,973,294/female 1,961,083)
15-64 years: 53% (male 2,355,861/female 2,342,988)
65 years and over: 2.6% (male 97,307/female 132,805)
Median age:
17.6 years
Growth rate:
Infant mortality:
114.89 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 48.47 years
male: 46.71 years
female: 50.28 years
Fertility rate:
6.76 children born/woman
noun: Somali(s)
adjective: Somali
Ethnic groups:
Somali 85%, Bantu and other non-Somali 15% (including Arabs 30,000)
Sunni Muslim
Somali (official), Arabic, Italian, English
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 37.8%
male: 49.7%
female: 25.8%


Country name:
conventional short form: Somalia
former: Somali Republic, Somali Democratic Republic
Government type:
no permanent national government; transitional, parliamentary national government
Administrative divisions:
18 regions (plural - NA, singular - gobolka); Awdal, Bakool, Banaadir, Bari, Bay, Galguduud, Gedo, Hiiraan, Jubbada Dhexe, Jubbada Hoose, Mudug, Nugaal, Sanaag, Shabeellaha Dhexe, Shabeellaha Hoose, Sool, Togdheer, Woqooyi Galbeed
1 July 1960 (from a merger of British Somaliland, which became independent from the UK on 26 June 1960, and Italian Somaliland, which became independent from the Italian-administered UN trusteeship on 1 July 1960, to form the Somali Republic)
National holiday:
Foundation of the Somali Republic, 1 July (1960); note - 26 June (1960) in Somaliland
25 August 1979, presidential approval 23 September 1979
note: the Transitional National Government formed in August 2000 had a three-year mandate to create a new constitution and hold elections, this goal was not achieved but the process is ongoing
Legal system:
no national system; Shari'a and secular courts are in some localities
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: Transitional Federal President Abdullahi YUSUF Ahmed (since 14 October 2004); note - a transitional governing entity with a five-year mandate, known as the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs), was established in October 2004; the TFIs relocated to Somalia in June 2004
head of government: Prime Minister Nur "Adde" HASSAN Hussein (since 24 November 2007)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the prime minister and approved by the Transitional Federal Assembly.
Legislative branch:
unicameral National Assembly
Judicial branch:
following the breakdown of the central government, most regions have reverted to local forms of conflict resolution, either secular, traditional Somali customary law, or Shari'a (Islamic) law with a provision for appeal of all sentences


Despite the lack of effective national governance, Somalia has maintained a healthy informal economy, largely based on livestock, remittance/money transfer companies, and telecommunications. Agriculture is the most important sector, with livestock normally accounting for about 40% of GDP and about 65% of export earnings. Nomads and semi-pastoralists, who are dependent upon livestock for their livelihood, make up a large portion of the population. Livestock, hides, fish, charcoal, and bananas are Somalia's principal exports, while sugar, sorghum, corn, qat, and machined goods are the principal imports. Somalia's small industrial sector, based on the processing of agricultural products, has largely been looted and sold as scrap metal. Somalia's service sector also has grown. Telecommunication firms provide wireless services in most major cities and offer the lowest international call rates on the continent. In the absence of a formal banking sector, money exchange services have sprouted throughout the country, handling between $500 million and $1 billion in remittances annually. Mogadishu's main market offers a variety of goods from food to the newest electronic gadgets. Hotels continue to operate and are supported with private-security militias. Somalia's arrears to the IMF continued to grow in 2006-07. Statistics on Somalia's GDP, growth, per capita income, and inflation should be viewed skeptically. In late December 2004, a major tsunami caused an estimated 150 deaths and resulted in destruction of property in coastal areas.

$5.387 billion (2007 est.)
GDP growth rate:
GDP per capita:
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 65%
industry: 10%
services: 25%
Inflation rate:
note - businesses print their own money, so inflation rates cannot be sensibly determined
Labor force:
3.7 million (very few skilled laborers)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 71%
industry and services: 29%
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 100%
a few light industries, including sugar refining, textiles, petroleum refining (mostly shut down), wireless communication
bananas, sorghum, corn, coconuts, rice, sugarcane, mangoes, sesame seeds, beans; cattle, sheep, goats; fish
livestock, bananas, hides, fish, charcoal, scrap metal
Export partners:
UAE 51.5%, Yemen 15.9%, Oman 6.2% 
manufactures, petroleum products, foodstuffs, construction materials, qat
Import partners:
Djibouti 31.2%, Kenya 14.2%, India 8.9%, Brazil 8.8%, Oman 4.8%, UAE 4.6% 
Somali shilling (SOS)

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

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