The clearly predominant ethnic group is that of Somalis (92%); then there are minorities of Arabs (2%), Afar (1%), and others (5%). The Islamization of the region began as early as the 10th century. VII and this because the Somali coasts were always open to contacts with the Arabian Peninsula: however, the ancient Egyptians had explored them long before, who bought incense and other aromas, as well as the Greeks and Romans. Merchant centers made flourishing by the Arabs existed since the most distant centuries, for example Zeila, Mogadishu, Merca; they also served as a basis for Europeans, especially the Portuguese. However, except in these coastal centers, the country has never been very populated, due to widespread nomadism and arid conditions. According to threergroup, the population density is very low (15 residents / km²); the average value, however, does not highlight the contrasts existing between the various regions, which are very considerable even if it is not possible to give a precise measure due to the lack of analytical data. With values above the average are the plains of Benadir, Upper and Lower Juba and the Uebi Scebeli valley, where the best climatic conditions favor a more intense exploitation of the soil. Elsewhere, however, where no form of agriculture is possible, the demographic veil becomes more and more sparse and elusive due to nomadism, and reaches its lowest levels in the driest northern territories and in internal Migiurtinia. There is no data on the past demographic consistency. Somalia and also for recent times there are only estimates based on sample surveys; according to estimates, in the immediate post-war period the population did not exceed 1.5 million residents, doubled by 1973, with a coefficient of annual growth of 2.8%.
The demographic increase was progressive and uniform at least until the early 1990s, when, due to the coup that deposed the dictator Siad Barre, the internal political situation became turbulent and led to large movements of refugees as well as to the worsening of the general conditions of life. Between 2000 and 2005, the rate of population growth increased, both due to the increase in the birth rate and the return of hundreds of thousands of refugees from neighboring Ethiopia and Eritrea during the 1998-2000 war. The refugee situation, even after 2005, is not resolved: internal refugees are estimated at approx. 400,000 and mainly allocated in the northern area (Somaliland) and Mogadishu, but there are also thousands of refugees, especially in Kenya and Egypt, but also in Ethiopia, Uganda and Djibouti. A large part of the population, also due to the precarious political situation, lives in poor sanitary conditions and with very little availability of food, often linked to the thin thread of favorable climatic conditions. In this way, the danger of hunger has once again become a specter for most of the local populations and, especially for the regions of central-southern Somalia, we must speak of food insecurity for at least one million people. Moreover, the impossibility of collecting reliable data does not allow us to evaluate the country’s human development index (HDI). Before the acquisition of independence, only 7% of the total population lived in centers with more than 10,000 residents, while in 2005 it had risen to 35.2%. The phenomenon, common to all developing countries, is destined to grow due to the obvious difficulties posed by the agricultural and pastoral environment, as well as by the better job prospects offered by the city.
Centers such as Mogadishu, Kismaayo (Chisimaio), Marka (Merca), Hargeysa have grown considerably. Mogadishu in particular is a city which, due to its functions as the capital and largest port of the country, also home to the main industries, has assumed considerable dimensions. Of ancient origin, already an important religious and political center in the century. XIII and lively outlet on the Indian Ocean, it declined when the Portuguese, starting from the century. XV, monopolized the trade of this stretch of the African coast; he recovered from a centuries-old abandonment only after Italy bought it, in 1892, from the ruler of Zanzibar, and therefore shows a generally modern face, with various buildings in Arabic style, but for the most part of a decidedly Western imprint. The other port centers on the Indian Ocean, all to the S of Mogadishu, are Marka, a very ancient city whose development began with the introduction in its hinterland of banana plantations, Baraawe (Brava), with numerous vestiges of the past domination Arab, and Kismaayo (Chisimaio), an excellent port (however the eccentric position harms it, being located at the southern end of the country), largely used for the export of bananas, but also for fishing. Inland, in “Mesopotamia” and along the Uebi Scebeli and Giuba, there are important agricultural centers, all of recent development, (ex Margherita, on the Giuba), Qoryooley (Coriolei) and Afgooye (Afgoi), on the Uebi Scebeli, and Jawhar (Giohar). In the North, mostly land of nomads, the main cities are Berbera, a good port on the Gulf of Aden, and Hargeysa, a lively market in a predominantly pastoral area, on the raised edge of the plateau.