Original Research

The political economy of Somali piracy: Unravelling the actors, their motivations and activities, 2005-2011

Justus Ondigi, George Gona, Kenneth Ombongi
New Contree | Vol 89 | a234 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.54146/newcontree/2022/89/02 | © 2023 Justus Ondigi, George Gona, Kenneth Ombongi | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 14 March 2023 | Published: 30 December 2022

About the author(s)

Justus Ondigi, The University of Nairobi, Kenya
George Gona, The University of Nairobi, Kenya
Kenneth Ombongi, The University of Nairobi, Kenya

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Understanding piracy as a criminal business enterprise only presents a partial portrait of what is otherwise a complex phenomenon. Somali piracy could be better understood if it were framed as a multi-layered engagement whose various actors’ participation is driven by varied motivations beyond commentators, scholars and analysts’ explanations of the phenomenon as a struggle for control, domination and fierce competition among actors. This article seeks to illustrate the facets of Somali piracy through the lens of a political economy approach to provide a nuanced consideration of the various actors who participated in the piracy economy, what motivated them to participate in this economy and suggests the functions of the economies which emerge. Such an endeavour, unlike the past, will not glorify a few people or groups but will attempt to reveal the many other actors and their activities. Through the mining of secondary sources and newspaper articles, the authors demonstrate how the collapsed economy of Somalia after the Siad Barre regime opened many economic opportunities for a variety of people in Somalia and beyond. This provides not only a different but also a disaggregated explanation of piratical activities in the Horn of Africa and a foundation of targeted interventions to end the scourge.


Somali economy; Somali piracy; Somali coast; Combat economy; Shadow economy; Coping economy


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