64 AVI­A­TION

The Africa Report - - CONTENTS - Richard Fer­raris

In So­ma­liland, the hope­ful look sky­ward

While gov­ern­ments do not recog­nise So­ma­liland’s in­de­pen­dence from So­ma­lia, the re­gion’s in­vest­ment in air­port im­prove­ments could have far-reach­ing ef­fects

The tale of twwo goats and their un­timely deaths at So­ma­liland’s Hargeisa Egal Air­port is part of avi­a­tion lore in the Horn of Africa. In the early 2000s, a Beechcraft King Air tur­bo­prop ran over the luck­less goats, and – as the oft-told story goes – their owner was hand­somely com­pen­sated for his loss. As news of the com­pen­sa­tion spread, more herders headed to­wards the air­port in the hope that their flocks might suc­cumb on the run­way and bring them un­told riches. If the air­port seemed bet­ter at at­tract­ing goat herders than pas­sen­gers not too long ago, all that is set to change. Egal re­opened in 2013 af­ter a ma­jor ren­o­va­tion which, along with the new ter­mi­nal at Ber­bera air­port, could help to es­tab­lish So­ma­liland as a re­gional avi­a­tion hub and as­sist the break­away state in build­ing its case for in­de­pen­dence from So­ma­lia.

To­day, Egal is pow­ered by re­new­able en­ergy and the United Arab Emi­rates-based car­rier fly­dubai is set to launch a ser­vice to the air­port this year. A con­sul­tant based in Hargeisa said the news could be trans­for­ma­tional: “The in­ter­est shown by fly­dubai in ex­pand­ing routes could in­di­cate that Hargeisa is now well placed to take ad­van­tage of its ge­o­graph­i­cal po­si­tion as a strate­gic link be­tween grow­ing East African economies and the com­mer­cial and fi­nan­cial clout of the Gulf States.” While fly­dubai is set to join Ethiopian Air­lines as an in­ter­na­tional car­rier fly­ing to Egal, Dji­bouti’s Warsan Air­lines is also dis­cussing the idea of pro­vid­ing a ser­vice to the cap­i­tal. Un­der Pres­i­dent Ahmed Mo­hamed mo­hamoud, who was elected in 2010, So­ma­liland has taken strides in im­prov­ing its avi­a­tion in­fra­struc­ture and, the gov­ern­ment hopes, in gain­ing greater in­terna---

tional ac­cep­tance. He at­tended the in­au­gu­ra­tion of the up­graded Ber­bera Air­port in March, The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity does not recog­nise So­ma­liland as an in­de­pen­dent state; it is recog­nised as an au­ton­o­mous re­gion in So­ma­lia’s fed­eral sys­tem. This lack of recog­ni­tion pre­cludes So­ma­liland from sign­ing bi­lat­eral trade deals and also hin­ders its abil­ity to at­tract aid and in­vest­ment. “[Air­ports] are very im­por­tant. They are the main hubs that link us with the rest of the world,” says Saad Shire, So­ma­liland’s min­is­ter of na­tional plan­ning and devel­op­ment. “Land, air and mar­itime trans­port in­fra­struc­ture are some of the key pa­ram­e­ters ev­ery in­vestor weighs [up] in their in­vest­ment considerations.” How­ever, the source of the fund­ing for the air­port re­fur­bish­ments un­der­scores the chal­lenges So­ma­liland faces. The cash-strapped gov­ern­ment re­ceived $6.7m, pre­dom­i­nately from the Kuwait Fund for Arab Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment and the US Agency for In­ter­na­tional Devel­op­ment, to ex­pand the ter­mi­nal, ex­tend the run­way and in­stall wind-pow­ered tur­bines at Egal. The Kuwait fund also paid for the con­struc­tion of the new pas­sen­ger ter­mi­nal and perime­ter fence at Ber­bera, on So­ma­liland’s north-west coast on the Gulf of Aden.

FRIENDS IN NEED

With­out in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion, So­ma­liland de­pends heav­ily on ex­ter­nal as­sis­tance from friendly gov­ern­ments, such as those of the UK, Den­mark, Nor­way and the Nether­lands, which con­trib­ute to the So­ma­liland Devel­op­ment Fund. The $64.3m in the fund cov­ers a small per­cent­age of the $1.2bn re­quired to fi­nance So­ma­liland’s 2012-2016 Na­tional Devel­op­ment Plan (see box). Mar­garet Vi­ola, a for­mer con­sul­tant for the So­mali-owned Daallo Air­lines, high­lights an­other chal­lenge for So­ma­liland: “The gov­ern­ment sees

avi­a­tion as very im­por­tant, but has lit­tle power to re­ally in­flu­ence it with­out con­trol of their own airspace.” The In­ter­na­tional Civil Avi­a­tion Or­gan­i­sa­tion trans­ferred con­trol of the airspace to So­ma­lia in De­cem­ber 2014, by­pass­ing So­ma­liland. On the po­lit­i­cal front, Turkey-bro­kered talks on re­la­tions be­tween So­ma­lia and So­ma­liland broke down in March be­cause of dis­agree­ments about So­ma­lia’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the dis­cus­sions.

SAFETY CRE­DEN­TIALS

So­ma­liland faces stiff head­winds. While the se­ces­sion­ist re­gion strug­gles to draw in­ter­na­tional sup­port, donors pledged $2.3bn in aid to So­ma­lia in 2013. Un­like the coun­try from which it seeks in­de­pen­dence, So­ma­liland has many of the in­sti­tu­tions of state, has held five elec­tions judged free and fair since 2000 and has es­tab­lished it­self as a rel­a­tively sta­ble and peace­ful ter­ri­tory. “Egal air­port is con­sid­ered the safest air­port in So­ma­lia,” says Cab­di­laahi Abokor, So­ma­liland’s for­mer deputy se­cu­rity min­is­ter. “With­out its mod­erni­sa­tion the in­ter­na­tional air­lines would never have op­er­ated out of Egal air­port – and that in­cludes Ethiopian Air­lines, which sees se­cu­rity as the num­ber one is­sue.” A num­ber of so­mali com­mer­cial air­lines op­er­ate out of Egal, in­clud­ing Jubba, Daallo and African Ex­press. Hargeisa, in north-west­ern So­ma­liland, is home to 750,000 peo­ple and is the de facto cap­i­tal. Avi­a­tion min­istry records show that traf­fic through Egal was up even be­fore the re­fur­bish­ment. Pas­sen­ger num­bers in­creased by 18% and air cargo by al­most 29% be­tween be­tween 2010 and 2012, ac­cord­ing to the min­istry. A to­tal of 83,000 pas­sen­gers passed through Egal and Ber­bera in 2013, ac­cord­ing to plan­ning min­is­ter Shire. With traf­fic at that level, So­ma­liland’s air­ports do not make it into Africa’s top 100 busiest air­ports. Be­fore the Egal ren­o­va­tion, the air­port served about 48,000 pas­sen­gers per year. Although the gov­ern­ment has not re­leased newer fig­ures, lo­cal me­dia claim that record num­bers of pas­sen­gers passed through Egal in 2014 and its new con­nec­tion to the Gulf is ex­pected to in­crease traf­fic fur­ther.

Civil avi­a­tion min­is­ter Mo­hamoud Hashi Abdi is hope­ful that Ethiopian Air­lines, Africa’s largest avi­a­tion com­pany, will start flights to Ber­bera. Africa Ex­press is cur­rently the only air­line to use the air­port. The gov­ern­ment wants to pro­mote Ber­bera as a tourist des­ti­na­tion. “[Ethiopian Air­lines’] Ber­bera flight is also ex­pected to serve our eastern So­ma­liland pas­sen­gers well, on top of po­ten­tial tourists from Ethiopia,” Abdi told lo­cal me­dia. More­over, Ber­bera port could be of strate­gic value to So­ma­liland’s land­locked neigh­bour Ethiopia, which could use Ber­bera as an al­ter­na­tive to Dji­bouti, its cur­rent out­let to the Gulf of Aden. In a bid to at­tract in­vest­ment, So­ma­liland passed a law in 2008 to pro­tect for­eign in­vestors. Co­caCola and West­ern Union are al­ready op­er­at­ing in the au­ton­o­mous re­gion, while sev­eral in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies – Genel En­ergy, Dno in­ter­na­tional, and RAKGAS– are ex­plor­ing for oil andgas. So­ma­liland’s bud­get for 2014 was $220m, the largest in its his­tory. The gov­ern­ment re­lies heav­ily on the live­stock sec­tor, which ac­counts for 60% of gross do­mes­tic prod­uct, and in­ter­na­tional donors. But So­ma­liland’s geog­ra­phy – at the nexus of the lu­cra­tive East African and Mid­dle East mar­kets – of­fers rea­sons for the so­ma­liland gov­ern­ment to be op­ti­mistic, es­pe­cially in light of the mod­erni­sa­tion of the coun­try’s in­fra­struc­ture.

Hargeisa’s Egal air­port is strate­gi­cally placed for air links to the Gulf States

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