By Ayan Ali Hussein
No truer words fit Somaliland today. A quarter of a century of steady continuous growth and development.
The big question is, what will Obama’s first presidential visit to East Africa and the African Union herald for us, in the present and for the future?
Only time will tell, but our hope is that the nation will be seen not as a source of insecurity, but one of enhanced state capacity. A nation which wants to strengthen economic ties, and security cooperation between the continents and not be stigmatized by South Central Somalia’s reputation of fostering Islamist extremism.
A nation which strives to broaden its potential and show case its talent at platforms like the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), were Somaliland’s up and coming talent such as Saed Sheikh Omer the Founder of Summertime Restaurant, can showcase their success and bring attention to the largely untapped markets and the growing middle class in the country. Among the many activities happening in Somaliland, to name a few there is the recent memorandum of understanding signed between our Government and the British Government for Hargeisa’s water, energy and electric power sectors, ongoing large-scale infrastructure projects i.e. road system, and the upcoming Berbera Gateway, which truly reflects the stages of development we are presently at.
The Summit has the potential to set-up a foundation of the largest WesternINVESTMENT infrastructure projects in East Africa. A perfect opportunity for Somaliland to distinguish and establish promoting economic ties with our neighbours and other continents.
To name a few opportunities and aspirations for Somaliland in the coming decade:
- The recent 10-year extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the U.S.’ main trading authority with Africa, creates a great opportunity for our country to show case our ability to comply with international trade regulations and demonstrate our economic stability to meet international export demands. This would also factor in to our agriculture sector and potential textile industry, exempting them from US import taxes, bolstering our private sector.
In recent light due to the instability in Yemen, we have suffered a drastic decrease in our livestock exporting sector. It has become apparent that our country not only needs to add value to our products but alsoINVEST in other avenues to export goods to. In 2014 neighbouring countries such as Kenya and Ethiopia have already accounted for $464,261,000 of U.S. Non-Energy Imports under AGOA/GSP.
- The proposed multibillion dollar deal that encompasses not only a new port in Lamu, oil field pipelines connecting Kenya and Uganda but also a railway from the port connecting existing rails in Nairobi that would stretch as far as Ethiopia and South Sudan. All aforementioned are positive precursors of things to come, a chance for open dialog to change and for further development.
With the oil exploration missions by international oil companies already in Somaliland, we can aim to become one of the trifecta of Africa’s main beneficiaries in exporting oil, joining Nigeria and Angola under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
- Somaliland hopes President Obama’s visit will further highlight the difference between South Central Somalia with Somaliland. Through the Bilateral talks in Kenya and talks with the African Union in Ethiopia, that a clear emphasis is made, Somaliland has remained on a path of economic stability and relative peace throughout the 25 years of its independence. The people of Somaliland see their sovereignty as a matter of identity and pride, a symbol of everything that has been achieved since 1991, and they whole heartily stand by any means to strengthen ties and security cooperation between the continent and the United States. With all the activities occurring around with our neighbouring countries and across in the Gulf of Aden. Our nation is placed in a strategical position to support the efforts to combat against Islamist extremism and threats aimed at disrupting the progress and peace of the East African Region. It is of absolute importance to stress this message to the future generations and the global community, that “Somaliland Says No to Terrorism”.
- The group accompanying Obama on his visit which stands to be over 1000 business people, will not only benefit Kenya but, we hope their experiences and knowledge will trickle down to our economy as well. Fostering our young entrepreneurs, capacity to trade and women in business help Somaliland achieve its full economic potential.
One thing is for certain Somaliland’s relationship with the U.S has not reached its full potential. It needs to be cultivated and safeguarded, to ensure the best political relations for the future, and promote regional integration among our neighbours.
Dear readers I leave you with these borrowed wise words, from the man of the hour, President Barack Obama;
“On every front there are clear answers out there that can make this country stronger, but we’re going to break through the fear and the frustration people are feeling. Our job is to make sure that even as we make progress, that we are also giving people a sense of hope and vision for the future.”
To this, Somaliland’s reply is “Mr President Welcome to East Africa, we have been patiently awaiting your visit.”