October 10, 2010

Building a Bridge to Africa

I've recently initiated research on the socio-economic impact of a bridge presently under construction between Djibouti and Yemen, also known as the Bridge of Horns.  While this small stretch of water is already a major trade route between the Horn of Africa and the Middle East, the development of this 16 mile bridge will make a major impact upon intercontinental trade by creating a direct linkage between the oil import producing nations of the Gulf with other production sites such as Sudan, and streamlining consumption by emerging economies such as China.  However I'm looking at what other externalities the construction of this bridge will establish, in particular its role among informal migrants who steadily attempt to access Yemen at great risk.  As Yemen presently developing into a formidable conflict zone, I am curious how back-linkages will additionally occur, feeding militant assets such as weapons and ideology into existing African conflict zones.   I will be writing more about this project in upcoming blog posts.

Mogadishu, Photo by Frank Langfitt/NPR
Speaking of spreading conflict, NPR hosted a decent  4 part series this last week on Somalia.  Journalist Frank Langfitt went to Mogadishu to assess the current state of things within this war torn city.   There were two aspects of his story that I found interesting, one about how political corruption slows the process of payment to Somali soldiers who are willing to join the AU and fight against Al Shabaab, the other regarding the influence of Al Shabaab within the Kenyan neighborhood of East Leigh.   I was just talking to a Somali friend of mine who lives in that neighborhood, and while I've found it a welcoming environment at the times I've been there, its interesting to hear that some of the businesses are now owned by Al Shabaab who has slowly permeated their influence within the neighborhood. 

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