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After Nairobi Attack, The World Can No Longer Ignore Somalia

Soldiers watch over a Mogadishu slum
Soldiers watch over a Mogadishu slum
Tobias Zick


NAIROBI – A dozen or more attackers stormed the shopping center, throwing grenades and shooting adults and children alike. They came to kill on a massive scale and with spectacular cruelty, setting up an agonizingly drawn-out hostage situation. What took place in the Nairobi shopping center was not only an attack on Kenya, but also on the international community whose representatives — UN employees, diplomats and development workers — regarded the Westgate center as an escapist oasis amid the turbulent region of East Africa.

The Somali Islamist militant group al-Shabab, which was responsible for the attacks, is now showing itself to be a truly international organization. A commander justifying the massacre via a telephone interview did so in perfect English, and early indications suggest that some of the attackers held U.S. and British passports.

And so we must once again acknowledge what we have long since known: Somalia is an international problem.

This is not news to Kenya. During the civil war that has stretched out over the last two decades, many Somalis have fled their country and come to Kenya, where they live in sprawling refugee camps in the desert or in Eastleigh, an area of Nairobi that has come to be called Little Mogadishu. It is a kind of second capital for Somalia. Politicians and journalists who were at risk in their homeland have found refuge here. Somali businessmen build glittering hotels, and al-Shabab recruits new militants from among the thousands of young, hopeless refugees.

For two years, Kenyan troops have been fighting the Islamists in Somalia, and it seems incredible that before Westgate no attack was attempted in the heart of Kenya.

Police corruption

The Kenyan, Ugandan and Burundian troops fighting the Somali militants are doing so in the interests of Europe and the United States. The West offers financial support and training to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) but has not sent its own soldiers into the country since militants shot down two U.S. (Blackhawk) helicopters over Mogadishu in October 1993 and slaughtered the survivors on the ground. The 17,000 or so AMISOM soldiers do not have a single military helicopter between them and they come from countries rife with their own internal problems.

The fact that the Kenyan authorities were unable to prevent the Westgate attack raises further questions, especially about the police force, which is rife with corruption. After the international airport in Nairobi burned down in August, many police officers were arrested on suspicion of looting shops amid the chaos rather than helping the public.

These are the sort of details that cast doubt on economists’ claims that Kenya and other countries in the region are ready to follow in the footsteps of the Asian Tigers and enjoy their own economic boom.

Few places display the region’s economic progress more clearly than a glittering modern shopping centre like the Westgate. This attack shows that without good government, political stability and safety for all citizens, the positive economic developments in East Africa are still no cause for celebration.

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Livestream Shopping Is Huge In China — Will It Fly Elsewhere?

Streaming video channels of people shopping has been booming in China, and is beginning to win over customers abroad as a cheap and cheerful way of selling products to millions of consumers glued to the screen.

A A female volunteer promotes spring tea products via on-line live streaming on a pretty mountain surrounded by tea plants.

In Beijing, selling spring tea products via on-line live streaming.

Xinhua / ZUMA
Gwendolyn Ledger

SANTIAGOTikTok, owned by Chinese tech firm ByteDance, has spent more than $500 million to break into online retailing. The app, best known for its short, comical videos, launched TikTok Shop in August, aiming to sell Chinese products in the U.S. and compete with other Chinese firms like Shein and Temu.

Tik Tok Shop will have three sections, including a live or livestream shopping channel, allowing users to buy while watching influencers promote a product.

This choice was strategic: in the past year, live shopping has become a significant trend in online retailing both in the U.S. and Latin America. While still an evolving technology, in principle, it promises good returns and lower costs.

Chilean Carlos O'Rian Herrera, co-founder of Fira Onlive, an online sales consultancy, told América Economía that live shopping has a much higher catchment rate than standard website retailing. If traditional e-commerce has a rate of one or two purchases per 100 visits to your site, live shopping can hike the ratio to 19%.

Live shopping has thrived in China and the recent purchases of shopping platforms in some Latin American countries suggests firms are taking an interest. In the United States, live shopping generated some $20 billion in sales revenues in 2022, according to consultants McKinsey. This constituted 2% of all online sales, but the firm believes the ratio may become 20% by 2026.

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