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Somali capital braces for business boom with improved security


Friday, April 26, 2013
By Chrispinus Omar

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MOGADISHU, April 26 (Xinhua) -- There are signs businesses are getting a new lease of life in the Somali capital Mogadishu.

The sheer numbers of newly-opened beauty parlors and newly erected business signage around the ruined city affirm the determination of a nation to turn a new chapter after 22 years of civil war.

The financial sector appears to have thrived the most during the country's slightly over two decades of war.
The scale of the expansion registered by the locally incorporated money transfer services that have kept the country's 10 million people going during the war is not in doubt throughout Mogadishu.

Ladan Express, one of the indigenous Somali cash transfer service providers opened in 2009, is already extending its presence in the Horn of Africa country.

The money transfer service firm is slowly molding into a local commercial bank, Ladan Express Bank. The others also follow suit, the Al Mushtaqbul... The long queues of petroleum tankers snaking its way to more than 2 km off the main seaport and the number of trucks loaded with freight waiting to deliver supplies outside the city is a sign of new life.

"What we are experiencing is a new window," Ahmed Abdi Kaarie, the deputy director of the Mogadishu Seaport, said in a recent interview in the capital.

"You can tell that there is need for foreign investments everywhere. We need professional companies to assist us in evaluating what is required," he added.

Somali President Sheikh Hassan Mohamoud is more excited about the pace of progress, but worries that the newly found vibrancy on the streets of the capital might be lost if stability is not restored.

The kind of stability he envisions is more permanent, backed by the institutions that his country is rebuilding.
"We feel if we do not succeed soon to achieve a relatively secure Somalia, we might not move," he warned.
The Somali leader said a number of business laws have been presented before parliament to get the economy going after several years of inactivity.

Among the laws and business legislation his administration is prioritizing are those dealing with the private sector.
The government has also put before parliament a proposed petroleum law, a separate bill to govern the minerals sector and another law on the fisheries sector.

"Some of these laws have been re-modeled. Some of them are new, some are law reviews and we hope that once they have been endorsed, we can move forward again," President Mohamoud said.

"We need international partners. We are focusing on privatization. The private partnership is the way forward for Somalia," he explained.

Talks are already underway with several foreign firms to secure stakes in the country's seaport. Port officials did not disclose any names, saying the negotiations were ongoing with the government.

The Somali President said apart from working harder to implement his election pledge, which comprises six pillars and which he has narrowed down to just two broad themes, capturing security and the institutional reforms, his government is also working on revitalizing bilateral ties with foreign governments.

Before a meeting with the Somali president last week, he had to receive credentials from two European diplomats. In total, a record number of 30 diplomats have been accredited to Mogadishu in recent months.

"We are going to make our financial sector reforms to work," the president said, speaking of his six-pillar agenda that lays emphasis on reforming the security sector, public sector reforms and enhancing transparency in the management of the public finance to effectively deal with corruption.

Somalia is casting his fishing net wider across the world. The president's plea is for the world's maritime giants to take advantage of Somalia's vast maritime resources, explorers to venture into mining and for the neighboring Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, to encourage the Somali entrepreneurial acumen.

"Somalia is a land of opportunities. We have 3,300 km of coastal line that gives us an opportunity to develop our maritime capacity. We have 10 million people and we have 8 million hectares of farmland. This is a very rich country. The people of this country have not benefited. We need stability," the president said.

The president's list of pro-business law reforms run deep, but he remains upbeat that a major step towards achieving his dream of reforming the judiciary has made a big leap forward in recent weeks.

"We have just completed a meeting with all the Somali lawyers and people from various sectors to discuss judicial reforms. This meeting has already proposed a list of priorities that would help us move forward with the reform of the courts and how things would be done in future," he said.



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