By Mohamed Ali, Founder, Iftiin Foundation and New Voices Fellow, The Aspen Institute
I recently participated in a conference on fighting piracy in Somalia. The topic: how to combat the thousands of men, AK47’s strapped to their backs, that were taking skiffs into the azure blue waters of the Indian Ocean to hijack and loot ships. The conference had a packed schedule, and international security officials discussed everything from the effective operation of prison systems to hold captured pirates to the logistics of coordinating anti-piracy security forces off the Somali coast.
But missing from the conversation were two critical numbers: 73 percent, the number of Somalis under the age of 30, and 67 percent, the youth unemployment rate. These two numbers hold the key to Somalia’s piracy problem. Youth unemployment and dissatisfaction feed not only lawlessness but also extremism, political instability, rampant poverty. Failure to address them spells doom for anti-piracy efforts that cost the international community hundreds of millions of dollars.
These two numbers are not unique to Somalia. Across the world, conflict and instability can...