Monday, March 30, 2020

Somaliland’s $442m port project with DP World and Ethiopia will go ahead

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Investment will establish Somaliland as a regional trading and maritime hub and create a container terminal with a capacity to handle up to 1.25 million TEUs a year

In April 2016, the Republic of Somaliland, an African nation situated in the Horn of Africa, proudly announced a $442 million international public-private partnership that represented the largest investment into the country since it declared independence from its neighbour, Somalia, in 1991.

The government of Somaliland and DP World, a leading multinational terminal operator, established a joint venture company which will manage and invest in the Port of Berbera. Construction of the quay extension is expected to start by the middle of this year and will take 18 to 24 months to complete.

The investment will establish Somaliland as a regional trading and maritime hub. It will create a container terminal with a capacity to handle up to 1.25 million TEUs a year when complete. This is a clear vote of confidence in Somaliland’s political and social stability.

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Ethiopia, the region’s largest economy and most populous land-locked country in Africa, joined Somaliland and DP World in the joint venture in March 2018, turning the development of Berbera Port into a multilateral investment. Berbera is, thus, well positioned to become a gateway port for the land-locked in east Africa. This will bring economic prosperity, social development and political stability to the region, especially Somaliland where the unemployment rate among people under 30 is as high as 70 per cent.

Yet despite the obvious benefits that the trilateral investment would bring to the Horn of Africa, the Somali Parliament last Monday spitefully declared this project void and has sought to ban DP World from investing in Somaliland. Although this decision has no legal merit and will not in any way impact the deal with DP World and Ethiopia, it demonstrates to the international community Somalia’s senseless hostility towards Somaliland, which has been unrelenting since we took the decision to break off our union on May 18, 1991, and regain our sovereignty and independence as a nation state.

The international community should be asking why Somalia – a country that has received billions of dollars in aid over the past three decades, but which still remains a failed state – is using the little bandwidth available in its political spectrum to undermine a project that would deliver greater prosperity for the region.

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My administration has been preparing to restart the dialogue with Somalia to discuss issues of mutual interest and negotiate amicable separation. These talks were due to begin later this month. But given the uncalled for hostility from Somalia, we have now been forced to reconsider our position.

Somalia has overstepped the line. Its unsuccessful attempt to alienate much-needed investment in the Horn of Africa will only hurt everyone in the region, including many innocent Somali people.

Therefore, we unequivocally condemn its posturing, and we call on the international community to do the same in the name of peace and prosperity in the Horn of Africa.

HE Muse Bihi Abdi, President of Somaliland

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