The expansion of the Port of Berbera, the building of the road linking the town to the Ethiopian border and the planned construction of the multi-million Berbera Economic Free Zone has brought life into the once sleepy city of Somaliland.
Add that to the rebuilding of the Berbera airport and the Somaliland second largest city seems to be emerging from the shackles to become the key focus point in the horn of Africa.
DP world, the Dubai based world’s largest port operator is the key player in the rebuilding of Berbera, they have invested $442 million for the expansion of the port and are also the economic free zone.
In 2017 when the original agreement was signed, the CEO of DP World Mr. Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem drew a parallel between the growth of Dubai and the development path Somaliland is on and added “Our vision is to make Berbera a trading and transportation hub for the Horn of Africa.”
Somaliland president Muse Bihi Abdi says “As a nation, the main objective we have of the Berbera Port is to achieve economic growth for our country and share it with the Horn of Africa region and the World. Our goal is a prosperous Somaliland and we are on that path with the Port construction, Berebera corridor and Berbera Airport which will be an international commercial airport”
Berbera Port historically served as a naval and missile base for the Somali central government. Following a 1972 agreement between the Siad Barre administration and the Soviet Union, the port’s facilities were patronized by the Soviets. It was later expanded for US military use, after the Somali authorities strengthened ties with the American government.
But after the 1990 Civil war erupted in the then united Somalia, Somaliland, a former British protectorate severed ties with Somalia but did not have the capacity to rebuild the Berbera Port, strategically located along the oil route which as at 2013, had a 650-metre berth and a depth of 11.5–12 metres.
Bashe Omar, who now the Somaliland envoy to Kenya played a key role in the negotiations to bring DP World to Somaliland.
“DP World saw the potential of Berbera and as the envoy of Somaliland to the United Arab Emirates, I was the first on line when the idea was mooted and we shared the same with the government. Today we are seeing the growth, the jobs created and the emergence of Berbera as the transportation hub for the region,” says Omar who previously served as the head of Somaliland embassy in the United Arab Emirates.
Bashe is particularly excited about the development of the economic free zone.
Situated on 12 square kilometres, the new free zone will complement the growth of the Port of Berbera as a regional trading hub and generate jobs.
The project is also modelled on DP World’s Jebel Ali Free Zone (Jafza) in Dubai and aims to attract investments, encourage trade, create new jobs and position Berbera as a gateway port for the region.
“Our vision for Berbera is to make it a regional maritime hub in the Horn of Africa and its development will encourage growth for the region’s economy,” said Al Banna.
Once operational, Somaliland joins few countries in sub Saharan Africa with Free Trade Zone and it is expected to attract businesses hoping to sell in the growing African markets.
Says Bashe: “Somaliland is slowly gaining international economic recognition with the developments at the Port of Berbera. From this, the world will not have any other option but to grant us political recognition.”