This report explores SME growth and resilience in the fragile Somali context during the COVID-19 pandemic, including its relation to wider political-economic developments. The pandemic has demonstrated how Somali businesses have continued to be resilient and at times even thrive during crisis, but it has also exposed the sizeable vulnerability associated with the Somali territories’ trade, import dependence and financing system. The global COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the supply and trans-shipment of goods. This has created shortages and price fluctuations for Somalia’s import-based economy and hampered the country’s payment system. It has also reduced remittances, buying power, access to finance and tax revenues. Shifts in funding streams have realigned political financing patterns and created price instability as political actors seek new ventures through which to move funds.
Although the economic shock brought about by COVID-19 has not structurally changed the Somali political economy, it has exacerbated existing patterns of inequality. The contribution of the private sector to the COVID-19 response has likely supported a range of livelihoods throughout the Somali territories, yet the preferential access to governance and strong competitive position that allowed this also highlights a worrying level of inequality and market concentration, and raises questions regarding government legitimacy. It seems likely that the COVID-induced economic crisis has therefore reinforced rather than destabilised those dynamics that prevent small businesses from competing on an equal footing and fragile situations from developing and stabilising.
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