Somalia vs United States

Somalia is one of the world’s poorest and least developed countries (Campbell). Because of the Civil War, which broke out in 1991, much of Somalia’s economy has been devastated. The war left many homeless and drove them to raise livestock as a means of survival. The economy used to be based on exports of cattle, goats, and bananas but as of early 1992 much of the economic trade had come to a halt. Now the economy is primarily based on the raising of livestock, which accounts for 40% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (Alhaus). Due to overgrazing, soil erosion, and the clearing away of many trees, Somalia has very few natural resources, which have not been exploited. Known deposits include petroleum, copper, magnesium, gypsum, and iron (“Somalian Economy”).

Before the war, Somalia had a well-functioning democratic republic government. Under the 1979 Constitution, the president held executive power. The president was the head and leader of the country’s sole legal political party, The Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party. Elected to serve a 7-year term, the president was nominated by the party’s central committee. Ever since the civil war in 1991, when the government collapsed, Somalia has been in a state of civil war and anarchy (“Somalian Government”).

Somalia is one of the countries in the world with the least diversity among the people. 98.8% of the population is made up of ethnic Somalis (Kraus). Other minority groups include Arabs, Indians, Italians, and Pakistanis. Most Somalis are nomadic or semi nomadic herders of livestock. The rest are either crop farmers or inhabitants of the few urban centers. The official languages of the country are Somali and Arabic and the state religion is Islam (“Somalian People”).

Primary education for children of at least six years was mandatory for Somalians. Many institutions of higher education were also available to the community. Due to the war, education in Somalia has decreased dramatically. The education system, which was under the control of the central government, collapsed and many of the schools closed (“Somalia”). Now, though, the people are trying to reopen some schools and reestablish the education system. The other problem with the education in Somalia is that many children at a young age start to work or help out with the family livestock, not having much time for school. This leaves the children uneducated and deprives them of basic day-to-day communication skills (Kraus).

Life in Somalia is relatively hard. Many of the major cities have been demolished due to constant fighting. Before the war, Somalia was flourishing with many developments. Day-to-day life was easy and promising. But when fighting broke out between the clans, the country regressed back to pre-development. Many of the homes and buildings, which were destroyed during the war, still remain in piles of rubble. As of now, several relief programs have been established in order to revive Somalia as a country.

The United States, unlike Somalia, has the most powerful, diverse, and most advanced economy in the world. The United States has been the worlds leading industrial nation since the early 20th century (“United States Economy”). “Leading manufacturing industries of durable goods include non-electrical machinery, electric and electronic equipment, motor vehicles and equipment, and other transportation equipment” (“United States of America”). The US is extremely rich in natural resources but depends increasingly on foreign sources for raw materials such as oil (Birdsall). The US economy consists of 3 main sectors. The first sector is directed towards natural resources, which is 2% of the GDP. The secondary sector is mainly manufacturing and construction, which is 18% of the GDP. The third, and most important sector includes output services like trade, banking, etc., which is 80% of the GDP. The US also produces a huge share of the world’s agricultural commodities because of its climate, which provides the growth of a favorable variety of crops (“United States”).

The United States has a democratic government, meaning that it is “elected by the people and for the people.” The supreme law of the land is the Constitution of the United States, ratified in 1879. Every adult over the age of 18 can vote. Power is distributed between federal and state governments (Hunt). The United States has an executive, legislative, and judicial branch. The chief of state and head of government is the president, who is elected to a 4-year term. The president is also the leader of his or her political party. The two major political parties that exist in the US are the Democratic and Republican parties (“United States of America”).

The population in the United States is ever growing and vastly diverse. Ethnic groups from all over the world can be found in the US. The major ethnic groups are Caucasians, African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians but many Americans also have mixed ancestries (“ United States People”). The primary language of the United States is English. Protestant and Roman Catholic are the major religions. Other religions include Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and some tribal religions (“United States”).

In contrast to Somalia, education in America is very important. Education for children is mandatory in all states up to a certain age (Hunt). Public primary and secondary schools are locally funded. Education is offered at all levels from pre-kindergarten to graduate school with public and private institutions. Many students, after finishing high school, go on to higher institutions of learning, such as universities and community colleges.

Life in the United States is not a piece of cake, but living conditions here far exceed those in Somalia. John Hammock, director of Oxfam of America, said, “ Look at how much money this country has and how many people go the bed hungry. We are not on the brink of famine, but in terms of people who are suffering, the United States is as devastated as any country in the Third World” (Campbell). In some areas of the US life is tough for some people. But unike Somalia, dedication to improve and learn will result in a better life. Success is rewarded to all those who strive to work hard and get far in the country of opportunity. There are bad areas in the US but the difference between the US and Somalia is that there are opportunities for a person to succeed. If someone works hard and tries to improve their living conditions they can achieve their goals and live a better life.

As you can see, Somalia and the United States are two countries with major differences and several similarities. Before the 1990’s, America and Somalia’s governments and education systems were similar. Both were run under a democratic government system and education is mandatory up to a certain age. However, as a result of Somalia’s Civil War, many key differences emerged. The United State’s economy is stable and well-functioning and the population consists of many ethnic groups. Somalia is the total opposite of the United States. Karl Vick said “ Somalia ranks dead last in the World Wide U.N. Survey of Human Development…There are several sick states on the continent of Africa…But perhaps Somalia is the first one that entered full coma” (A45).


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14. Vick, Karl. “Building a government form scratch. After 10 chaotic years, Somalia has a president.” Washington Post 24 Nov. 2000: A45.

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