Tuesday, December 18, 2012
African Airlines, an airline owned by Somali businessmen, has started offering domestic flights to areas liberated from al-Shabaab, the first such company to take advantage of improving security conditions.
"African Airlines' internal flights will allow people to reach areas that were difficult to get to by land due to lack of security, poor road conditions or long distances," said Mohamed Jama of the African Airlines board of directors.
"The airlines started these domestic flights on December 4th after obtaining the necessary permits and approvals from the Somali government and the African Union Mission in Somalia, which is responsible for airport security in the liberated cities," he told Sabahi.
Jama said that African Airlines, which previously offered service to just Somaliland and Puntland, now has three domestic flights per week from Aden Ade International Airport to the recently liberated cities of Kismayo, Baidoa andBeledweyne. "Soon, there will be scheduled flights to all the other Somali cities that have airports where airplanes can land," he said.
Mohamud Ahmed of the Somali Chamber of Commerce said the new flights indicate that the security situation in the country is improving.
"The security situation in the country has been significantly improving since allied forces took over strategic areas that were under the control of al-Shabaab's militants," he told Sabahi. "Business has picked up throughout most of the country and the number of Somalis returning from abroad to start investment projects has risen thanks to the return of stability to most parts of the country."
Boosting local economies
Abdinur Osman, a professor of economics at Green Hope University in Mogadishu, also said resumption of domestic flights to liberated areas in central and southern Somalia has boosted the local economies.
"These new domestic flights contribute to boosting commerce and economic growth, and also attract Somali and foreign investors to compete," he told Sabahi.
Osman called on the government to develop the infrastructure of old airports in recently liberated cities. "Most Somali airports, except Mogadishu airport, are run-down and have not been renovated since the collapse of the central government," he said. "For this reason, they do not meet international safety standards."
"Airports are a country's gateway [to the world] and the old airports desperately need to be renovated and improved in order to encourage more flights and boost commercial activity among the various Somali regions," he said. "Developing the domestic flight grid so that it extends to all parts of Somalia will help connect Somali cities and encourage investors to come and invest in the country."
Mogadishu-based businessman Abdifatah Abdullahi welcomed the improvements after the string of al-Shabaab defeats.
"During the rule of al-Shabaab over the southern regions, it was difficult for merchants, businessmen, government officials and regional authorities to get to areas that are far from the capital, Mogadishu, or to move between regions," he told Sabahi. "The journey by land from Mogadishu to Beledweyne used to take at least two days, while traveling between Mogadishu and Kismayo would take three to four days due to bad roads and long distances."
"Now, everybody will be able to easily reach all the regions," he said. "It also reduces time spent by travellers, as citizens can now have breakfast in Mogadishu and lunch in Kismayo, Beledweyne or Baidoa."
Abdullahi said privately-owned local operators such as Daallo Airlines, Jubba Airways and African Express Airways used to operate domestic flights to and from central and southern Somalia, but flights were suspended due to deteriorating security conditions when al-Shabaab took over southern Somalia four years ago.