Chinese investment in Somalia is impossible to quantify due to the lack of Somali government records. However, a trawl through the WikiLeaks US State Department files reveals two reports that expose American concern about Sino-Somali economic ties and record the nature of China's Somalia-related expenditure. These include buying oil rights in Puntland and suspected, albeit oblique, support for the creation of a breakaway state in Jubaland, to act as a buffer between Kenya and regions held by al-Shabab in southern Somalia.
The files also reveal how Chinese soft loans, technicians and equipment allowed Somali entrepreneurs to build much of the country's mobile-phone network. The network is keeping many Somalis alive, with NGOs such as Concern Worldwide able to wire emergency cash credits to the most needy citizens via mobile phones.
'The money goes straight to the people who most need it,' says Concern Worldwide's Paul O'Brien, 'allowing them to buy food, medicine or whatever else they most require.'
The funds are collected at Somali money transfer companies. Concern Worldwide has supported almost 50,000 families in this way.