NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 21 – Kenyan investors stand to gain hugely should the ties between the country and Somaliland improve.
Already there is a Somaliland liaison office in Nairobi but efforts are being made by the two countries to improve the ties for Kenya to recognize the sovereignty of Somaliland which broke away from Somalia over three decades ago.
Somaliland appointed Bashe Awil Omer a fortnight ago as its new envoy to Kenya as it aims to cement the growing relations between the two countries.
Somaliland, which has claimed autonomy from the main Somalia government, is on a mission to initiate relationships with regional states as it pushes for recognition at the African Union and the United Nations.
Bashe has hit the ground running setting up meetings with Kenya government officials.
In an interview, Bashe says there are so many areas in which Kenya and Somaliland can work together for the benefit of their citizens.
“The cooperation between Kenya and Somaliland will see trade between the two countries grow. We will also work on improving security in the region and empower the hundreds of thousands of youth some of who are looking for opportunities to invest or further their education,” observed Bashe who was formerly in the United Arab Emirates where he initiated strong partnership with the Arab nation who will fund several development projects in Somaliland.
Bashe said his mission to Kenya is to foster ties between the two countries.
“We (Kenya and Somaliland) are already working together when it comes to security and fighting terrorism in this region. But there is so much that remains to be done for us to cooperate and coexist together,” he stated.
Among the areas that need to be strengthened is the trade between the two nations, education and health.
Somaliland economy is booming, yet the country has to import most agricultural commodities from the middle east. Fruits and vegetables which are abundantly produced in Kenya are yet to hit the Somaliland market because of the weak ties thus far.
Further because Kenya does not recognize Somaliland passports, students who graduate from Somaliland high schools are would like to further their educations cannot access Kenyan institutions of higher learning because of the restrictions. The same applies to patients who would otherwise fly to Nairobi to get medical attention in Kenyan hospitals.
“There are the areas we want to work on. It is a tall order but I do believe we will soon get rid of these restrictions and open the space for our people to easily travel between the two countries,” states Bashe.
There are over 18,000 Kenyans living in Somaliland according to Bashe who says with stronger ties, the number should be able to grow given the opportunities Somaliland presents to Kenyans.
Somaliland is highly stable and democratic with a fully functioning government and its own currency, the Somaliland shilling. The country also boasts of an independent judicial system; and a constitution that guarantees the rule of law.
Somaliland has a dynamic and youthful population; 70 per cent of the people are under 30 years old and well educated: there are more than 30 colleges and universities, public and private, which produce thousands of highly employable graduates every year.
Next month, the country will lay the expansion of a landmark investment project worth $ 442 million (377 million euros) from Dubai Port giant DP World — the largest in its the country’s history — which will see the Port of Berbera (set in a bustling coastal town, north east of Hargeisa, Somaliland’s capital) redeveloped and expanded to provide an alternative shipping and trading hub in the Horn.
The port will have access to the maritime highways that connect Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa and will firmly establish Somaliland as a gateway to east Africa and the continent beyond. The deal was initiated by Bashe when he was the Somaliland envoy to the United Arab Emirates.
DP World joins an increasing number of multinational companies viewing Somaliland as a secure and stable location through which to access the east African market, including Coca-Cola, which has partnered with a local business to open a $17m bottling plant outside Hargeisa, employing 100 local people.
There are two flights (by Ethiopian Airlines) every day between Addis Ababa and Hargeisa, bringing business people from across the world to Somaliland. Fly Dubai too has direct flights between Dubai and Hargeisa.