Several powerful Somali states dominated the Indian Ocean trade from the 13th century onward. In the late 19th century, the area that would become Somalia was colonized by Britain in the north and Italy in the south. Britain withdrew from British Somaliland in 1960 to allow its protectorate to join with Italian Somaliland and form the new nation of Somalia. In 1969, a coup headed by Mohamed SIAD Barre ushered in an authoritarian socialist rule characterized by the persecution, jailing, and torture of political opponents and dissidents. After the regime's collapse early in 1991, Somalia descended into turmoil, factional fighting, and anarchy. In May 1991, northern clans declared an independent Republic of Somaliland that now includes the administrative regions of Awdal, Woqooyi Galbeed, Togdheer, Sanaag, and Sool. Although not recognized by any government, this entity has maintained a stable existence and continues efforts to establish a constitutional democracy, including holding municipal, parliamentary, and presidential elections. The regions of Bari, Nugaal, and northern Mudug comprise a neighboring semi-autonomous state of Puntland, which has been self-governing since 1998 but does not aim at independence; it has also made strides toward reconstructing a legitimate, representative government but has suffered some civil strife. Puntland disputes its border with Somaliland as it also claims the regions of Sool and Sanaag, and portions of Togdheer. Beginning in 1993, a two-year UN humanitarian effort (primarily in south-central Somalia) was able to alleviate famine conditions, but when the UN withdrew in 1995, having suffered significant casualties, order still had not been restored. In 2000, the Somalia National Peace Conference (SNPC) held in Djibouti resulted in the formation of an interim government, known as the Transitional National Government (TNG). When the TNG failed to establish adequate security or governing institutions, the Government of Kenya, under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), led a subsequent peace process that concluded in October 2004 with the election of Abdullahi YUSUF Ahmed as President of a second interim government, known as the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of the Somali Republic. The TFG included a 275-member parliamentary body, known as the Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP). President YUSUF resigned late in 2008 while UN-sponsored talks between the TFG and the opposition Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) were underway in Djibouti. In January 2009, following the creation of a TFG-ARS unity government, Ethiopian military forces, which had entered Somalia in December 2006 to support the TFG in the face of advances by the opposition Islamic Courts Union (ICU), withdrew from the country. The TFP was doubled in size to 550 seats with the addition of 200 ARS and 75 civil society members of parliament. The expanded parliament elected Sheikh SHARIF Sheikh Ahmed, the former ICU and ARS chairman as president in January 2009. The creation of the TFG was based on the Transitional Federal Charter (TFC), which outlined a five-year mandate leading to the establishment of a new Somali constitution and a transition to a representative government following national elections. In 2009, the TFP amended the TFC to extend TFG's mandate until 2011 and in 2011 Somali principals agreed to institute political transition by August 2012. The transition process ended in September 2012 when clan elders replaced the TFP by appointing 275 members to a new parliament who subsequently elected a new president.



10.0° N, 49. 0° E
Eastern Africa, bordering the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, east of Ethiopia


637,657 sq km
627,337 sq km
10,320 sq km

land boundaries

2,385 km


3,025 km


principally desert; northeast monsoon (December to February), moderate temperatures in north and hot in south; southwest monsoon (May to October), torrid in the north and hot in the south, irregular rainfall, hot and humid periods (tangambili) between monsoons


mostly flat to undulating plateau rising to hills in north


410 m
lowest point
Indian Ocean
0 m
highest point
2,416 m

natural resources

  • uranium
  • iron ore; largely unexploited
  • tin
  • gypsum
  • bauxite
  • copper
  • salt
  • natural gas
  • likely oil reserves

land use

arable land
1.8 %
permanent crops
0 %
permanent pasture
68.5 %
10.6 %
19.1 %

population distribution

distribution varies greatly throughout the country; least densely populated areas are in the northeast and central regions, as well as areas along the Kenyan border; most populated areas are in and around the cities of Mogadishu, Marka, Boorama, Hargeysa, and Baidoa



  • 11,757,124
  • 78
    global rank


  • Somali(s)
  • Somali

ethnic groups

85 %
Bantu and other non-Somali
15 %


  • Somali
    official, according to the 2012 Transitional Federal Charter
  • Arabic
    official, according to the 2012 Transitional Federal Charter
  • Italian
  • English


  • Sunni Muslim

birth rate

  • 38.7
    per 1,000 population
  • 11
    global rank

death rate

  • 12.4
    per 1,000 population
  • 14
    global rank

urban population

46.1 %

major urban areas

  • Mogadishu
    pop. 2,282,000
  • Hargeysa
    pop. 989,000

life expectancy

  • 54
    total population
  • 225
    global rank

adult obesity rate

  • 8.3%
    percent of adults
  • 153
    global rank


country name


  • Federal Republic of Somalia
    long form
  • Somalia
    short form


  • Jamhuuriyadda Federaalkaa Soomaaliya
    long form
  • Soomaaliya
    short form

government type

federal parliamentary republic


2.4 N, 45.20 E


national holidays

  • Foundation of the Somali Republic
    1 July

legal system

mixed legal system of civil law, Islamic (sharia) law, and customary law (referred to as Xeer)

age of suffrage


flag description

light blue with a large white five-pointed star in the center; the blue field was originally influenced by the flag of the UN but today is said to denote the sky and the neighboring Indian Ocean; the five points of the star represent the five regions in the horn of Africa that are inhabited by Somali people: the former British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland (which together make up Somalia), Djibouti, Ogaden (Ethiopia), and the North East Province (Kenya)

national colors

  • blue
  • white

national anthem

"Qolobaa Calankeed" (Every Nation Has its own Flag)



Despite the lack of effective national governance, Somalia maintains an informal economy largely based on livestock, remittance/money transfer companies, and telecommunications. Somalia's government lacks the ability to collect domestic revenue and external debt – mostly in arrears – was estimated at about 77% of GDP in 2017. Agriculture is the most important sector, with livestock normally accounting for about 40% of GDP and more than 50% of export earnings. Nomads and semi-pastoralists, who are dependent upon livestock for their livelihood, make up a large portion of the population. Economic activity is estimated to have increased by 2.4% in 2017 because of growth in the agriculture, construction and telecommunications sector. Somalia's small industrial sector, based on the processing of agricultural products, has largely been looted and the machinery sold as scrap metal. In recent years, Somalia's capital city, Mogadishu, has witnessed the development of the city's first gas stations, supermarkets, and airline flights to Turkey since the collapse of central authority in 1991. Mogadishu's main market offers a variety of goods from food to electronic gadgets. Hotels continue to operate and are supported with private-security militias. Formalized economic growth has yet to expand outside of Mogadishu and a few regional capitals, and within the city, security concerns dominate business. Telecommunication firms provide wireless services in most major cities and offer the lowest international call rates on the continent. In the absence of a formal banking sector, money transfer/remittance services have sprouted throughout the country, handling up to $1.6 billion in remittances annually, although international concerns over the money transfers into Somalia continues to threaten these services’ ability to operate in Western nations. In 2017, Somalia elected a new president and collected a record amount of foreign aid and investment, a positive sign for economic recovery.


20,440,000,000 USD

agriculture products

  • bananas
  • sorghum
  • corn
  • coconuts
  • rice
  • sugarcane
  • mangoes
  • sesame seeds
  • beans
  • cattle
  • sheep
  • goats
  • fish


  • 145,300,000
    revenue (USD)
  • 151,100,000
    expenditures (USD)



    fixed lines

  • 74,800
    total subscriptions
  • 149
    global rank

    mobile cellular

  • 7,653,040
    total subscriptions
  • 99
    global rank

broadcast media

2 private TV stations rebroadcast Al-Jazeera and CNN; Somaliland has 1 government-operated TV station and Puntland has 1 private TV station; the transitional government operates Radio Mogadishu; 1 SW and roughly 10 private FM radio stations broadcast in Mogadishu; several radio stations operate in central and southern regions; Somaliland has 1 government-operated radio station; Puntland has roughly a half-dozen private radio stations; transmissions of at least 2 international broadcasters are available (2019)


country code


  • 225,181
  • 2
    % of population
  • 173
    global rank


electricity access



air transport

    national system

  • 1
    registered air carriers
  • 251,652
    annual passenger traffic


  • 52
  • 8


15,000 km
total length


service age