Politics and policy

Somalia bets big on port and airport to resurrect war-wrecked economy

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The Aden Abdulle International Airport, Somalia. Photo/DICKSON MIGIRO

The Aden Abdulle International Airport, Somalia. Photo/DICKSON MIGIRO  NATION MEDIA

By DICKSON MIGIRO

Posted  Wednesday, June 19  2013 at  20:36

In Summary

  • The airlines sector has become a relatively attractive commercial venture in Somalia, with the likes of Fly 540/Sax, Jubba Air and African Express all providing daily flights from Nairobi and the region.
  • The Mogadishu sea port that has served the region for centuries is nowadays teaming with activity.

Aboard Jubba Airways, a rickety plane filled with a cacophony of Somalis all speaking at the same time, we landed in Mogadishu.

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A port that has for centuries been a major transit point in trade with other nations. The ancient silk routes lured many to its shores. It became cosmopolitan. It was fought over by the British and the Italians with the Italians managing to keep it.

They built whitewashed stucco buildings and turned it into a boisterous playground. Nowadays, all that is left of that era is ruins of once magnificent buildings, some partially, others totally destroyed.

In the 60's post-colonial era, the centre of Mogadishu was where one went to hear tall tales laced with superstitious and outrageous characters. The residences used to ring out with sounds of the Beatles, Elvis and Ray Charles.

In the 70's, it is rumoured that James Brown gave a performance in Mogadishu. A rumour that does not seem to bear historical basis. It seems tall tales are still quite alive in Mogadishu.

Ours was one of more than 500 flights than now land on a monthly basis at the Aden Abdulle International Airport.

“In March this year, we had 492 inbound flights that disembarked 33,757 passengers and the same number of flights transported 15,909 passengers outbound. So you can see there are more people coming in than are going out,” said Satmo Musoke, the senior air traffic management officer at Aden Abdulle airport.

“Compare that to October 2012 where 426 flights carrying 15,226 passengers inbound and 18,546 passengers outbound when we had more people leaving than coming in,” he said.

Somalis, it seems, are returning home in greater numbers than ever before.

“It is like a candle has been lit in a dark place and all can see it,” says Abdullahi Farah Qaarey, a former presidential adviser. “I have called my friends from around the world, and it seems like everyone is travelling back home. I am here to see what is happening”

The Aden Abdulle airport charges Sh4,200 for a single entry visa and as such derives its income from visitors such as ourselves and Mr Qaarey.

For journalists, who are especially targeted in Somalia, they are charged an extra Sh21,250 ($250) for accreditation.

The airport boasts a standard, active runway that can land an Airbus 320. The apron is tiny and this means aeroplanes can sometimes be held up in the air awaiting one to exit the active runway. Plans are afoot to build two more taxiways. The runway, I was to learn, doesn’t have an Instrument Landing System.

In the last two years, the airlines sector has become a relatively attractive commercial venture in Somalia, with the likes of Fly 540/Sax, Jubba Air and African Express all providing daily flights from Nairobi and the region.

Maintenance and safety has been outsourced to Nairobi and other neighbouring countries.

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