• Port cities in both Somalia and Yemen historically, and in the current moment in 2020,
enabled the flow of goods, people and ideas, creating transregional networks and economies. These networks and economies have been central in shaping social (including
religious), political and commercial life in both Somalia and Yemen. These maritime
connections have been essential in navigating the political and environmental volatility caused by the long-term effects of state failure and civil war in both countries.
• Shifting demands in global markets, the continuing civil war in Yemen and wider transformations wrought by the growing presence and competition among Gulf Cooperation
Council (GCC) countries, specifically the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia and
Qatar, in both Yemen and Somalia have reshaped trade and mobility across the Gulf
of Aden. This has had important consequences for regional security and geopolitics. It
has also had significant and understudied impacts on economic life and livelihoods in
• The port of Bosaso emerged as the major port for Puntland due to the ability of key
actors in the city to navigate shifting geopolitical currents that resulted from the
collapse of the central government in 1991. Without access to ports, newly returned
Darod traders transformed Bosaso into a gateway to Yemen and the wider trading
world of the Red Sea. Drawing on long-standing historical links between Yemen and
Somalia, as well as kinship networks on both sides of the Red Sea, Bosaso provided a
haven for goods and livestock coming in and out of Somalia.
• As the main export product for Somalia, including Puntland, livestock trade has been
central to the rise and sustenance of the port of Bosaso. The development of the port
into a livestock hub was dependent not only on channelling long-distance land-based
pastoral economies but also on the creation of an infrastructure of quarantine authorities that issued export licenses and health certificates for the direct export of livestock
to lucrative markets in the region.
• The Yemen civil war has proven to be both peril and possibility for the Bosaso port. A
number of traders and imports and exports have suffered due to increased insecurity
and political instability. At the same time, the civil war has also provided quick profits
from a short-lived but lucrative black market for oil smuggling.
• The Yemen civil war, rising insecurity and geopolitical wrangling over the port of
Bosaso also reveal wider shifts in the region. New actors, itineraries and systems of
connectivity, including the rise of China, Oman and Turkey as trading partners; the
increasing prominence of ports in Somaliland and Somalia such as Berbera, Mogadishu
and Kismayo; and a move to formal banking and air travel, are changing and perhaps
marginalizing Bosaso’s position in the region.