Demographics of Somalia

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Demographics of Somalia
Somalia single age population pyramid 2020.png
Population pyramid of Somalia in 2020
Population12,386,248 (2022 est.)
Growth rate2.42% (2022 est.)
Birth rate37.98 births/1,000 population (2022 est.)
Death rate11.62 deaths/1,000 population (2022 est.)
Life expectancy55.72 years
 • male53.39 years
 • female58.12 years
Fertility rate5.31 children born/woman (2022 est.)
Infant mortality rate86.53 deaths/1,000 live births
Net migration rate-2.18 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2022 est.)
Age structure
0–14 years42.38%
65 and over2.27%
Major ethnicSomali (85%)

The demographics of Somalis encompass the demographic features of Somalia's inhabitants, including ethnicity, language, population density, education level, health, economic status, religious affiliations and other aspects of the population. Somalia is believed to be one of the most homogeneous countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Ethnic groups[edit]

According to The Economist, at independence Somalia was "arguably in ethnic terms the most homogeneous country in sub-Saharan Africa", ahead of Botswana, which is four-fifths Tswana. However, the publication also notes that "its ethnic homogeneity is misleading. Despite also sharing a single language and religion, it is divided into more than 500 clans and sub-clans".[1]


Young Somali women at a community event in Hargeisa, Somalia.

Somalis constitute the largest ethnic group in Somalia, at approximately 85% of the nation's inhabitants.[2] They are organized into clan groupings, which are important social units; clan membership plays a central part in Somali culture and politics. Clans are patrilineal and are typically divided into sub-clans, sometimes with many sub-divisions. Through the xeer system (customary law), the advanced clan structure has served governmental roles in many rural Somali communities.[3]

Somali society is traditionally ethnically endogamous. So to extend ties of alliance, marriage is often to another ethnic Somali from a different clan. Thus, for example, a recent study observed that in 89 marriages contracted by men of the Dhulbahante clan, 55 (62%) were with women of Dhulbahante sub-clans other than those of their husbands; 30 (33.7%) were with women of surrounding clans of other clan families (Isaaq, 28; Gadabuursi, 3); and 3 (4.3%) were with women of other clans of the Darod clan family (Marehan 2, Ogaden 1).[4]

Clan structure[edit]

Certain clans are traditionally classed as noble clans, referring to their nomadic lifestyle in contrast to the sedentary Sab who are either agropastoralists or artisanal castes.[5] The five noble clans are Hawiye, Dir, Darod, Isaaq and Rahanweyn.[6] Of these, the Dir and Hawiye are regarded as descended from Irir Samaale, the likely source of the ethnonym Somali (soomaali).[7] The Isaaq and Darod have separate agnatic (paternal) traditions of descent through Ishaak ibn Ahmed (Sheikh Ishak) and Abdirahman bin Isma'il al-Jabarti (Sheikh Darod) respectively.[8] Both Sheikh Ishak and Sheikh Darod are asserted to have married women from the Dir clan, thus establishing matrilateral ties with the Samaale main stem.[7] "Sab" is the term used to refer to minor Somali clans in contrast to "Samaale".[9] Both Samaale and Sab are the children of their father "Hiil" whose is the common ancestor all Somali clans.[10]

A few clans in the southern part of Greater Somalia do not belong to the major clans, but came to be associated with them and were eventually adopted into one of their confederations: Gaalje'el in Hiran and elsewhere in central Somalia traces its paternal descent to Gardheere Samaale;[11][12] Garre in the Somali Region and North Eastern Province is divided into two branches: Tuuf claiming itself to be Garre Gardheere Samaale,[13][14][15] and Quranyow, who married Tuuf's daughter, is of Mahamed Hiniftir Mahe Dir lineage;[14][16][17] Degoodi in the Somali Region and North Eastern Province is related to Gaaje'el as Saransoor and traces its patrilineage to Gardheere Samaale;[11][12] Hawaadle in Hiran belongs to the Meyle Samaale;[11][12] Ajuraan in the North Eastern Province claim descent from Maqaarre Samaale[13] and Sheekhaal acknowledges descent from Sheikh Abadir Umar Ar-Rida, also known as Fiqi Umar.[18] Thus, the Gaalje'el, Garre, Degoodi Ajuraan and Hawaadle are said to have patrilateral ties with the Dir and Hawiye through Samaale to Aqil ibn Abi Talib (a cousin of the prophet Muhammad and brother of Ali), whereas the Sheekhaal traces descent to a different forefather than the Samaale progeny, but ultimately also to Aqil ibn Abi Talib. The Sheekhaal (var. Sheikhaal (Arabic: شيخال), also known as Fiqi Omar, is a Somali clan. A Group members of hawiye major clan (Martiile Hiraab) inhabit Somalia, Ethiopia Djibouti and with considerable numbers also found in the Northern Frontier District (NFD) in Kenya.

The Digil and Mirifle (Rahanweyn) are agro-pastoral clans in the area between the Jubba and Shebelle rivers. Many do not follow a nomadic lifestyle, live further south, and speak Maay. Although in the past frequently classified as a Somali dialect, more recent research by the linguist Mohamed Diriye Abdullahi suggests that Maay constitutes a separate but closely related Afro-Asiatic language of the Cushitic branch.[19]

A third group, the occupational clans, are treated as outcasts. They can only marry among themselves and other Somalis considered them to be ritually unclean. They lived in their own settlements among the nomadic populations in the north and performed specialised occupations such as metalworking, tanning and hunting.[9] These Minority Somali clans are the Gaboye, Tumaal, Yibir, Jaji and Yahar.

Clans and sub-clans[edit]

An old map of Richard Burton's route to Harar features one of the earliest depictions of Somali clan settlements.[20]
Geographic location of Somali clans[21]

There is no clear agreement on the clan and sub-clan structures. The divisions and subdivisions as given here are partial and simplified. Many lineages are omitted. Note that some sources state that the Rahanweyn group is made up of the Digil and Mirifle clans, whereas others list the Digil as a separate group from the Rahanweyn.[22]

Major clans
Minor clans

Other ethnic groups[edit]

Non-Somali ethnic minority groups make up about 15% of the nation's population.[2] They include Bantus, Bajunis, Ethiopians, Indians, Pakistanis, Persians, Arabs, Italians, Swedes, and Britons.[26][27]


Speech sample in Standard Somali.

Somali and Arabic are the official languages of Somalis. The Somali language is the mother tongue of the Somalis, the nation's most populous ethnic group.[28] It is a member of the Cushitic branch of the Afroasiatic family.[29]

In addition to Somali, Arabic, which is also an Afroasiatic tongue,[30] is an official national language in Somalia. Many Somalis speak it due to centuries-old ties with the Arab world, the far-reaching influence of the Arabic media, and religious education.[30][31][32]

English is widely used and taught. Italian used to be a major language, but its influence significantly diminished following independence. It is now most frequently heard among older generations, government officials, and in educated circles.[30] Other minority languages include Bravanese, a variant of the Bantu Swahili language that is spoken along the coast by the Bravanese people, as well as Bajuni, another Swahili dialect that is the mother tongue of the Bajuni ethnic minority group.


According to the 2019 revision of the World Population Prospects[33][34], the total population was 15,008,226 in 2018, compared to 2,264,000 in 1950. The proportion of children below the age of 15 in 2010 was 44.9%, 52.3% was between 15 and 65 years of age, while 2.7% was 65 years or older.[35]

Vital statistics[edit]

Registration of vital events in Somalia is incomplete. The Population Department of the United Nations prepared the following estimates:[35][36]

Period Live births per year Deaths per year Natural change per year CBR* CDR* NC* TFR* IMR*
1950-1955 128 000 76 000 52 000 53.4 31.9 21.5 7.25 207
1955-1960 139 000 79 000 60 000 52.1 29.7 22.4 7.25 193
1960-1965 153 000 82 000 71 000 51.0 27.5 23.6 7.25 179
1965-1970 172 000 86 000 86 000 50.8 25.5 25.3 7.25 167
1970-1975 194 000 91 000 103 000 50.4 23.6 26.8 7.10 155
1975-1980 266 000 120 000 146 000 50.3 22.7 27.7 7.00 149
1980-1985 280 000 128 000 152 000 43.8 20.0 23.8 6.70 138
1985-1990 293 000 120 000 174 000 45.3 18.5 26.8 6.70 127
1990-1995 299 000 135 000 164 000 45.6 20.6 25.0 6.50 141
1995-2000 320 000 125 000 195 000 45.9 17.9 28.0 6.50 123
2000-2005 360 000 128 000 232 000 45.7 16.2 29.5 6.50 111
2005-2010 391 000 137 000 254 000 44.2 15.5 28.7 6.40 107
2018 5.70
* CBR = crude birth rate (per 1000); CDR = crude death rate (per 1000); NC = natural change (per 1000); IMR = infant mortality rate per 1000 births; TFR = total fertility rate (number of children per woman)

Life expectancy[edit]

Life expectancy in Somalia, 1950 to 2019
Period Life expectancy in
1950–1955 33.99
1955–1960 Increase 35.99
1960–1965 Increase 37.97
1965–1970 Increase 39.99
1970–1975 Increase 41.91
1975–1980 Increase 43.78
1980–1985 Increase 45.48
1985–1990 Increase 46.37
1990–1995 Decrease 44.96
1995–2000 Increase 49.80
2000–2005 Increase 51.49
2005–2010 Increase 53.18
2010–2015 Increase 54.86

Demographic statistics[edit]

Demographic statistics according to the World Population Review.[38]

  • One birth every 48 seconds
  • One death every 3 minutes
  • One net migrant every 14 minutes
  • Net gain of one person every 1 minutes

The following demographic are from the CIA World Factbook[39] unless otherwise indicated.


11,259,029 (July 2018 est.)
10,428,043 (2014 est.)

Age structure[edit]

Population pyramid of Somalia in 2017
0-14 years: 42.87% (male 2,410,215 /female 2,416,629)
15-24 years: 19.35% (male 1,097,358 /female 1,081,762)
25-54 years: 31.23% (male 1,821,823 /female 1,694,873)
55-64 years: 4.35% (male 245,744 /female 243,893)
65 years and over: 2.19% (male 95,845 /female 150,887) (2018 est.)

Median age[edit]

Total: 18.2 years. Country comparison to the world: 211th
Male: 18.4 years
Female: 18 years (2018 est.)

Birth rate[edit]

39.3 births/1,000 population (2018 est.) Country comparison to the world: 9th
40.87 births/1,000 population (2014 est.)

Death rate[edit]

12.8 deaths/1,000 population (2018 est.)
13.91 deaths/1,000 population (2014 est.)

Total fertility rate[edit]

5.7 children born/woman (2018 est.) Country comparison to the world: 6th

Population growth rate[edit]

2.08% (2018 est.) Country comparison to the world: 45th
1.75% (2014 est.)

Net migration rate[edit]

-5.6 migrants/1,000 population (2018 est.) Country comparison to the world: 199th
-9.51 migrants/1,000 population (2014 est.)

Dependency ratios[edit]

Total dependency ratio: 97.4 (2015 est.)
Youth dependency ratio: 92.1 (2015 est.)
Elderly dependency ratio: 5.3 (2015 est.)
Potential support ratio: 18.8 (2015 est.)


Urban population: 45% of total population (2018)
Rate of urbanization: 4.23% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)
Urban population: 37.7% of total population (2011)
Rate of urbanization: 3.79 annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Sex ratio[edit]

At birth: 1.03 males/female
Under 15 years: 1 male/female
15–64 years: 1.07 males/female
65 years and over: 0.66 males/female
Total population: 1.01 males/female (2015 est. )

Infant mortality rate[edit]

Total: 93 deaths/1,000 live births
Male: 101.4 deaths/1,000 live births
Female: 84.3 deaths/1,000 live births (2018 est.)

Life expectancy at birth[edit]

Total population: 53.2 years
Male: 51 years
Female: 55.4 years (2018 est.)
Total population: 51.58 years
Male: 49.58 years
Female: 53.65 years (2014 est.)


HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate

0.1% (2017 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS

11,000 (2017 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths

<1000 (2017 est.)

Major infectious diseases[edit]

Degree of risk: high
Food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A and E, and typhoid fever
Vector-borne diseases: dengue fever, malaria, and Rift Valley fever
Water contact disease: schistosomiasis
Animal contact disease: rabies (2013)


Noun: Somali (singular) or Somali (plural)
Adjective: Somali

Ethnic groups[edit]




Definition: age 15 and over can read and write
Total population: N/A[41]

See also[edit]


Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from the CIA World Factbook website

  1. ^ "The centre holds, but only just". The Economist. 11 May 2013. Retrieved 18 November 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Somalia". World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. 2009-05-14. Retrieved 2009-05-31.
  3. ^ Abdullahi, Mohamed Diriye (2001). Culture and Customs of Somalia. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 142. ISBN 0313313334.
  4. ^ Ioan M. Lewis, Blood and Bone: The Call of Kinship in Somali Society, (Red Sea Press: 1994), p.51
  5. ^ Lewis, I. M. (1999). A Pastoral Democracy: A Study of Pastoralism and Politics Among the Northern Somali of the Horn of Africa. James Currey Publishers. pp. 11–14. ISBN 0852552807. Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  6. ^ Notre Breve sur les Tribus Somalies (1961). JSTOR 4390794.
  7. ^ a b Lewis, I. M.; Said Samatar (1999). A Pastoral Democracy: A Study of Pastoralism and Politics Among the Northern Somali of the Horn of Africa. LIT Verlag Berlin-Hamburg-Münster. pp. 11–13. ISBN 3-8258-3084-5.
  8. ^ I.M. Lewis, A Modern History of the Somali, fourth edition (Oxford: James Currey, 2002), p. 23
  9. ^ a b Laitin, David D. & Samatar, Said S. (1987). Somalia: Nation in Search of a State, Colorado: Westview Press. ISBN 0-86531-555-8
  10. ^ Adam, Hussein Mohamed (1997). Mending rips in the sky: options for Somali communities in the 21st century. Red Sea Press. ISBN 9781569020739. Retrieved 9 August 2016.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Adam, Hussein Mohamed; Ford, Richard (1997-01-01). Mending rips in the sky: options for Somali communities in the 21st century. Red Sea Press. p. 127. ISBN 9781569020739.
  12. ^ a b c d Ahmed, Ali Jimale (1995-01-01). The Invention of Somalia. The Red Sea Press. p. 121. ISBN 9780932415998.
  13. ^ a b Ahmed, Ali Jimale (1995-01-01). The Invention of Somalia. The Red Sea Press. p. 130. ISBN 9780932415998.
  14. ^ a b c Hayward, R. J.; Lewis, I. M. (2005-08-17). Voice and Power. Routledge. p. 242. ISBN 9781135751753.
  15. ^ The Quranyo section of the Garre claim descent from Dirr, who are born of the Irrir Samal. UNDP Paper in Keyna
  16. ^ a b "Dynamics and Trends of Conflict in Greater Mandera" (PDF). Amani Papers. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
  17. ^ Ahmed, Ali Jimale (1995-01-01). The Invention of Somalia. The Red Sea Press. p. 122. ISBN 9780932415998.
  18. ^ Richard Burton, First Footsteps in East Africa, 1856; edited with an introduction and additional chapters by Gordon Waterfield (New York: Praeger, 1966), p. 165
  19. ^ Abdullahi, Mohamed Diriye (2001). Culture and Customs of Somalia. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 9. ISBN 0313313334.
  20. ^ Burton, Richard (1856). First Footsteps in East Africa (1st ed.). Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans.
  21. ^ "Somalia Maps - Perry–Castañeda Map Collection - UT Library Online". Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  22. ^ Worldbank, 2005, p. 56
  23. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2009-12-06.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Country Information and Policy Unit, Home Office, Great Britain, Somalia Assessment 2001, Annex B: Somali Clan Structure], p. 43; and Worldbank Conflict in Somalia: Drivers and Dynamics, January 2005, Appendix 2, Lineage Charts, pp. 56–58
  24. ^ Ahmed, Ali Jimale (1995-01-01). The Invention of Somalia. The Red Sea Press. ISBN 9780932415998.
  25. ^ Abdullahi, Mohamed Diriye (2001). Culture and Customs of Somalia. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 8–11. ISBN 0313313334.
  26. ^ Gale Research Inc, Worldmark encyclopedia of the nations, Volume 2, (Gale Research: 1984), p.278.
  27. ^ Anthony Appiah, Henry Louis Gates, Encyclopedia of Africa, Volume 1, (Oxford University Press: 2010), p.402
  28. ^ Central Intelligence Agency (2011). "Somalia". The World Factbook. Langley, Virginia: Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 2011-10-05.
  29. ^ I. M. Lewis, Peoples of the Horn of Africa: Somalis, Afar and Saho, (Red Sea Press: 1998), p. 11.
  30. ^ a b c Helena Dubnov, A grammatical sketch of Somali, (Kِppe: 2003), pp. 70–71.
  31. ^ Diana Briton Putman, Mohamood Cabdi Noor, The Somalis: their history and culture, (Center for Applied Linguistics: 1993), p. 15.: "Somalis speak Somali. Many people also speak Arabic, and educated Somalis usually speak either English or Italian as well. Swahili may also be spoken in coastal areas near Kenya."
  32. ^ Fiona MacDonald et al., Peoples of Africa, Volume 10, (Marshall Cavendish: 2000), p. 178.
  33. ^ ""World Population prospects – Population division"". United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. Retrieved November 9, 2019.
  34. ^ ""Overall total population" – World Population Prospects: The 2019 Revision" (xslx). (custom data acquired via website). United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. Retrieved November 9, 2019.
  35. ^ a b Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat, World Population Prospects: The 2010 Revision Archived May 6, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  36. ^ CIA (July 2010). "Somalia". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 2010-06-30.
  37. ^ "World Population Prospects - Population Division - United Nations". Retrieved 2018-08-26.
  38. ^ "Somalia Population 2018", World Population Review
  39. ^ "The World FactBook - Somalia", The World Factbook, July 12, 2018Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  40. ^ a b c "Africa - SOMALIA". CIA The World Factbook.
  41. ^ No reliable data on nationwide literacy rate. 2013 FSNAU survey indicates considerable differences per region, with the autonomous northeastern Puntland region having the highest registered literacy rate (72%). [1]


External links[edit]