Accidental internet cut-off hits Somalia economy hard
Last month, a baby was born in the Somali capital Mogadishu with a terrible eye defect that requires treatment abroad. The infant was cleared for treatment in Turkey but before the paperwork was complete a container ship, believed to be the Panama-flagged MSC Alice, docked outside Mogadishu port, accidentally dragging its anchor through the main fiber optic cable connecting Somalia with the rest of the world.
Since that evening of June 24 most of the Horn of Africa nation has been cut off from the web, costing it an estimated $10 million (nine million euros) a day in lost business according to the government, and freezing the lives of those, like the sick child, whose hopes depend on international connections.
There are a wealthy, fortunate few with the wherewithal to get online via satellite link-ups, but the vast majority of the 6.5 million people in Somalia’s south-central region are in the dark, said Mohamed Ahmed Jama, chief executive of Dalkom, a Somali telecommunications company that is part of the consortium providing the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System.
The blackout has wreaked havoc in Somalia, where decades of conflict have combined with irrepressible entrepreneurialism to create a far-flung diaspora of almost two million people who earn money abroad and send it home to their relatives. The internet is what connects these Somalis with Somalia.
“In Somalia the telecommunications sector has thrived, even during some of the worst years of conflict,” said Ahmed Soliman, Somalia researcher at the Chatham House think tank in London. “Urban Somalis have become increasingly connected online since fibre-optic was rolled out in 2014.” The World Bank estimates that at $1.4 billion annually, international remittances make up a quarter of national GDP. Habiba Mohamud, a customer relations officer at Mogadishu’s International Bank of Somalia, said the international transfers department has been cut off since last month’s anchor incident. —AFP