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Here’s a pecuniary peculiarity to rival Bitcoin – the world strongest currency over the past 12 months belongs to a small, war-torn African state without foreign currency reserves or any discernible monetary policy and a central bank of only three years’ standing.

Yet the Somali shilling, Somalia’s official currency, has overcome such disadvantages to appreciate against the US dollar by just under 60 per cent since March last year, becoming the strongest among global 175 currencies tracked by Bloomberg. Its surge has been so pronounced that the second most robust currency over the same period – the Icelandic Krona – could only manage a measly 10.2 per cent rise. Continue reading »

Maritime piracy has fallen to its lowest level for six years, according to figures released on Wednesday by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB). Overall, the number of actual and attempted attacks is down 40 per cent since Somali piracy peaked in 2011.

But there there are new reasons to be concerned. Piracy is spreading in west Africa and beyond. The number of armed robberies around the coast of Indonesia is at its highest level for 10 years. Continue reading »

By Charles Okeahalam of AGH Capital

Tom Hank’s portrayal of Captain Richard Phillips’ encounter with the pirate Abduwali Muse aboard the MV Maersk Alabama has focused public attention on an issue threatening an industry that, according to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), handles more than 90 per cent of global trade. Continue reading »

Somaliland, a small, fragile economy struggles for a regional role against the odds. Katrina Manson, East Africa correspondent reports on the new airport recently built in the capital Hargeisa.

By Adam Green of This is Africa

This week, a new company – Soma Oil and Gas – signed an exploration deal with the Mogadishu-based federal government of Somalia. The agreement came as a surprise. The government had previously abstained from signing such deals, fearing they would inflame ongoing territorial tensions (which the UN also warned about).

But it could also ratchet up tensions between the federal government and the two semi-autonomous northern provinces, Somaliland and Puntland, as well as between major oil companies, which have licenses dating back to the early 1990s, and new ones who are signing their own, often in overlapping territories. All told, the Horn of Africa is quickly becoming a spaghetti soup of deals. Continue reading »

By Zoe Flood of This is Africa

More than 250 money transfer companies, used largely by diaspora communities to send remittances to friends and family, face closure in Britain following a decision by Barclays to stop providing such companies with banking services.

The bank warned that some money service businesses may be without “the proper checks in place to spot criminal activity” and as a result could “unwittingly be facilitating money laundering and terrorist financing.” Continue reading »

When you think of piracy (aside from the digital kind), what comes to mind? The answer is probably “Somalia”.

But a new report reveals that it is an outdated assumption. Piracy around the Horn of Africa is declining. Instead, it is increasing on the other side of the continent, in the Gulf of Guinea. Continue reading »

There could hardly be a more poignant or devastating reminder of divisive instability that has spread throughout the Horn of Africa.

On Monday, I moderated a discussion panel on how arts and literature can help rebuild society in the Horn of Africa. But I shouldn’t have been there at all. Continue reading »

It’s not a country recognised by anyone other than its own government, but that doesn’t seem to phase three oil companies scaling up exploration in Somaliland.

UK-listed Genel Energy and Ophir Energy, and Australia-listed Jacka Resources, are starting to explore for oil in earnest in the breakaway state, which declared independence from Somalia in 1991. Continue reading »

By Michael Peel in Abu Dhabi

A Somali coastguard returns from a patrol off the coast of Somalia's breakaway Republic of Somaliland on March 30, 2011.Somali piracy is a big and damaging business – and for the first time, a country in the oil-rich Gulf has given some money to the United Nations fund set up to fight it. It was a modest start: the United Arab Emirates donated $1.4m, part of a total of about $5m raised at a big conference on piracy in Dubai this week.

But that’s still less than the average ransom for a hijacked ship these days – and a fraction of the $7bn to $12bn that piracy is estimated by one report to cost the world economy annually. Continue reading »