Somalia on the world map. Map of Somalia
Map of Somalia with cities. Where Somalia is on the world map. The main geographical facts about Somalia - population, country area, capital, official language, religions, industry and culture.
Somali Fact File
Official name Somali Democratic Republic
Form of government Republic; no effective central government exists at the present time
Capital Muqdisho (Mogadishu)
Area 637,660 sq km (246,200 sq miles)
Time zone GMT + 3 hours
Projected population 2015 15,405,000
Population density 12.2 per sq km (31.5 per sq mile)
Life expectancy 47
Infant mortality (per 1,000) 122.2
Official language Somali
Other languages Arabic, Italian, English
Literacy rate 37.8%
Religions Sunni Muslim with tiny Christian minority
Ethnic groups Somali 85%, remainder mainly Bantu with small Arab, Asian, and European minorities 15%
Currency Somali shilling
Economy Agriculture 76%, services 16%, industry 8%
GNP per capita US$ 550
Climate Mainly hot and arid, with higher rainfall in the south
Highest point Mt Shimbiris 2,416 m (7,927 ft) Map reference Page 367
Somalia, a coastal state on the Horn of Africa, is in one respect unlike any other African country. It is the only place where the whole population feels that they are "one people"— Somali—and because of this ethnic homogeneity it has the makings of a nation state. Briefly under the control of Egypt from 1875, the region became a British protectorate in 1885. In 1889 Italy took control of the eastern coast, and from then on the country was divided into British
Traders at the goat and donkey market in Lalibela, in northern Ethiopia (left page). An aerial view of the city of Djibouti, on the Gulf of Aden (below). A group of Somali villagers (above).
Somaliland in the north and Italian Somaliland in the south and east. It has been independent since I960.
The history of the people of Somalia since independence has been one of repression (under the Soviet-aligned Siyad Barre), military adventure (the invasion of the Ethiopian Ogaden), and civil war. When in 1992 an estimated 2,000 people were dying from war and starvation each day, the United Nations intervened, but its troops were unable to stop the military and civil unrest and withdrew. Anarchy and banditry now prevail and Somalia is riddled by corruption. The power of the interim government ruling since 2000 is only recognized in Muqdisho. Warlords rule the rest of the country. In the absence of any central authority, and without a functioning government in Muqdisho, the northern area once known as British Somaliland seceded and proclaimed itself an independent state. Centered on the city of Hargeysa, it calls itself the Somaliland Republic. It has not been recognised internationally but has proven politically stable since 1998.
Along the northern shore facing the Gulf of Aden lies the semiarid Guban coastal plain. Behind this is a range of mountains, the Ogo Highlands, running eastward from Ethiopia to the point of the Horn itself. South of the highlands is the Haud Plateau, and beyond this the land slopes down toward the Indian Ocean. Much of Somalia has semidesert thornbush and dry savanna cover. Only in the better watered south is there enough rainfall to support meager forests and grassland. Arable farming takes place between the Rivers Jubba and Shabeelle in the south. The Shabeelle, blocked by dunes, provides water for irrigation. Bananas from this area are a major export, mainly to Italy. Rival clans fight over this important resource; some plantation work is done by women and children in slave-labor conditions guarded by armed militia.
Nomadic pastoralists form much of the population in the north. Searching for grass and water, they wander with their herds across the state boundaries between southern Djibouti, the Ogaden, and northeast Kenya. Livestock accounts for forty percent of gross domestic product and 65 percent of export earnings. In the south, in addition to the export crop of bananas, food crops of sugar, sorghum, and maize are grown. A small industrial sector is based on the processing of food products, but the prevailing disorder has caused many facilities to be shut down.
Highest point Mousa Alii (Musa AIT Terara) 2,028 m (6,654 ft)
Map reference Page 367
One of the smallest African countries, Djibouti stands at the entrance to the Red Sea from the Gulf of Aden. This strategic location near the world's busiest shipping lanes has resulted in it being used as a base by European nations for a hundred years. After the construction of the Suez Canal, the British and French took an interest in Djibouti as a way of protecting their investment in the canal route to Europe, the town of Djibouti becoming the capital of French Somaliland in 1892. Although Djibouti won independence in 1977, France continues to play a role in its affairs and maintains a significant military presence in the country.
Since 1977 there has been a continuous political struggle between the majority Issa (who are Somali) and the minority Afar (also known as Danakil). Somalia, across the southeastern border, supports the Issa. Eritrea, to the north, supports the Afar, as does Ethiopia. Thus, both Issa and Afar have numerous external allies watching over their interests and inclined to interfere. The port of Djibouti is also the terminus of rail traffic for the vast landlocked hinterland of Ethiopia, a crucial matter for that state. Unrest among the Afars minority during the 1990s led to multi-party elections in 1999- A peace accord in 2001 ended the final phases of a ten-year uprising by Afar rebels.
Djibouti is one of the hottest places on earth, little rain falls, and water is in high demand. A subterranean river named the Ambouli is one essential source. Two-thirds of the population live in the capital city itself. Those who live elsewhere mostly inhabit the relatively fertile coastal strip along the Gulf of Tadjoura (Golfe de Tadjoura), avoiding the burning interior plateau and its volcanic wastes. Almost ninety percent of the interior terrain is desert, with a vegetation of scrub and desert thorns. Here, nomadic goat and camel herders eke out a living.
Djibouti's economy is that of a free trade zone providing essential services for the region. It has few natural resources (though geothermal energy is being developed, and natural gas has been found), little industry, and agricultural production mainly provides fruit and vegetables for domestic consumption. The services it renders are those of a transit port, of great value to Ethiopia and Somalia, and of an international depot and refueling center. Originally established by the French in the nineteenth century, the port is now being developed as a container facility.