How to survive without aid? Ask self-declared state Somaliland.

Hargeisa, Somaliland

Hassan Mohamed Ali is asked the same question about his homeland so often that he has it printed on the back of his business card. 

“Where in the world is Somaliland?” the text reads, beside a map showing the location of the self-declared state in the Horn of Africa.  

That is the trouble with being the minister of planning and national development for a country that technically doesn’t exist. Most people don’t even know where to find you.   

Why We Wrote This

“Going it alone” may mean one thing to nationalist leaders aiming to buck the international status quo. But for leaders of self-declared states that yearn for global recognition, the path to self-sufficiency looks very different. Part 8 in our global series “Navigating Uncertainty.”

But Mr. Ali knows that Somaliland’s anonymity also gives it certain advantages. His nation, which peeled off from Somalia during its civil war in 1991, is unrecognized but stable; poor but peaceful. It has somehow cobbled together a functioning state, with a democratic government, international borders, and its own currency and passport. 

“The world turned away from us and ultimately it was a blessing,” says Mr. Ali. “We didn’t have help, so we were forced to develop our own homegrown system.” 

Ryan Lenora Brown/The Christian Science Monitor

Hassan Mohamed Ali, Somaliland’s Minister of Planning and National Development, says Somaliland’s lack of international recognition has been a blessing in disguise for its development. “We didn’t have help [from the global community], so we were forced to develop our own homegrown system,” he says.

For three decades, Somaliland has been locked out of a club that confers countries’ ultimate necessities: diplomatic legitimacy, and with it, money. If recognized, the nation could apply for World Bank loans. It could benefit from bilateral aid agreements, and take a seat at the United Nations. Without a doubt, being unacknowledged has cost the territory during its crucial early years. 

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