Ac­ci­den­tal in­ter­net cut-off hits So­ma­lia econ­omy hard

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

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.

In­ter­net-en­abled di­as­pora

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

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