20 January, 2014

Somaliland in aviation investment talks with Sharjah and Air Arabia

Somaliland in aviation investment talks with Sharjah and Air Arabia

Andrew Scott

Somaliland is in talks with Sharjah’s Civil Aviation Authority and Air Arabia to discuss the possibility of the emirate investing in its aviation sector, the autonomous region’s minister said.

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Mohamed Abdilahi Omar, Somaliland’s minister for trade and foreign investment, was in the UAE last week looking to boost investment in the self-declared sovereign state.

Mr Omar said the UAE is Somaliland’s number one trade partner and is looking to model itself on Dubai.

“I have spoken to the Sharjah Civil Aviation Authority and Air Arabia because they are interested to come to Somaliland and to operate all our major airports,” said Mr Omar.

“Not only take-off and landing but to create a hub from which they can fly to Kenya, Ethiopia, all the Gulf states. Sharjah Civil Aviation office has shown a lot of interest they want to build our airports and train our civil aviation staff. Other airline companies want to fly in and fly out. We will be very happy for flydubai if it wants to come but Sharjah and Air Arabia want to fly, operate and build a hub which gives both of us a commercially interesting package.

The minister, however, added that “we haven’t signed a deal at all. We are still in discussion and negotiating what may be possible”.

Somaliland’s nearest neighbours are the war-torn Somalia and the landlocked Ethiopia.

Mr Omar sees the potential from both neighbours as Somalia’s business community bases itself in Somaliland and Ethiopia.

With a population of more than 90 million, Somaliland’s Berbera port plays an important role in facilitating trade.

“Our major port is Berbera that has lots of links with Jebel Ali,” said Mr Omar.

“The UAE is our number one trading partner. We ship 3.5 million head of livestock to the Gulf countries, mostly Saudi Arabia but also to the UAE. In the last 10 to 15 years the UAE has become our major business partner for all our businesses because of the two ports working together.

Berbera’s status as a hub seems assuring. Mr Omar said that Ethiopia wants 30 per cent of its trade to come through Berbera. “That is why we are expanding the port. I am on the way to Paris to speak to a French port development company to help with the expansion that already manages 20 ports in Africa,” he said

With 860 kilometres of undeveloped coastline and a chronic lack of investment in health care, education and infrastructure, Somaliland is resource-rich but investment-poor.

“We have oil, gas, fish, livestock, farming but our agri-business needs modernising massively,” said Mr Omar. “We have livestock but the sector needs a lot of investment, development and technology. We are doing our utmost with free zones and laws to protect foreign direct investment. We have the raw resources and now we are creating the climate for business to enhance them.”


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