Somalia: Demographics

Somalia: Demographics Last updated on Sunday 25th April 2010

The Somalis, a Cushitic people, share the same language, religion and culture but are divided into groups by a deeply ingrained clan structure, such as the Dir, Iqsaq and Digil.

Somalis share many cultural traits, such as the same language, the same religion and the same complex oral tradition. Despite these common characteristics, Somalia remains a distinctly divided society. Most Somalis belong to one of six clans found throughout the land. The biggest of the clans are the Ishaaq, the Darood, and the Hawiye. Clans themselves are divided into smaller and sub-clans, which are distinguished by high and low social classes.

Men often publicly play the game of shax, a board game requiring careful attention to strategy. Asked why no women played shax, one man replied that the women were too busy working.

There is a small minority of Bantu-speaking people in the south. Other minority groups include Arabs, Indians, Italians and some Pakistanis. However, the indigenous population is nomadic or traditional pastoralists. The rest are either crop farmers, fishermen, or urban dwellers.

With a population of nearly 9 million, Somalia has an average population density of 10 people per sq. km. The population of the capital, Mogadishu, is estimated at around 0.75 million.


This figure is based on a July 2000 estimation, which is based, in turn, on an official government census taken in 1975. Population counting in Somalia is complicated due to the large number of nomads and refugee movements as a result of famine and clan conflicts.

Age structure
0-14 years: 44%

15-64 years: 53%

65 years and over: 3%

Population growth rate


Birth rate

47.7 births/1,000 population

Death rate

18.69 deaths/1,000 population

Infant mortality rate

125.77 deaths/1,000 live births

Life expectancy at birth
total population: 46.23 years
male: 44.66 years
female: 47.85 years

Total fertility rate

7.18 children born/woman

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