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Opinion: Somalia ready for China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Beijing(SONNA)-Having strategic importance in terms of location, potential trade hub, and rich agriculture with the longest coast in the Africa, Somalia is optimistic to be one of the beneficiary countries of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

BRI is the People's Republic of China's strategy in which it invests mainly in improving infrastructure of countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America.

After Somalia witnessed the fruitfulness of the BRI in many counties like neighboring Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti which are now heavily reaping from these tangible projects, It's also not fragile to these developments!

A good example of the growing China-Africa Cooperation is the Kenyan standard gauge railway which is funded under BRI, has not only reduced the transport fares but also created 50'000 new jobs for Kenyan citizens.

The example is the 756 km electrified rail way project which is connecting the neighboring landlocked country of Ethiopia to our sister-country, Djibouti in the region. These developed infrastructure projects opened new doors of opportunities for the people and governments of these counties in terms creating new jobs, boasting economic and trade exchanges, movement and transporting goods and services. Passengers expend only 20 US dollars for fare which is very cheap and affordable one.

It is also worth mentioning the distance between Nairobi town, the capital of Kenya and the port town of Mombasa which is 478 km, and the rail covers within 4 hours and half only while passengers pay fare of 7 U.S dollars only.

Just like Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti, Somalia which is also a developing country needs such infrastructure to help improve the livelihood of the Somali people.

Currently Somalia Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is $17bn and the livelihood of the people isn't that better even with the great country's potential for economic development .This is mainly attributed to the collapse of the transport infrastructure caused by civil-war that broke out in the early 1991's.

Somalia has not been able to trade with its neighboring countries because of the poor connectivity in and outside the country.

Imagine, it takes me two days to visit my hometown, Jilib which is only 380km south of the capital Mogadishu, and in rainy seasons it can take me a week on the way by car.

It was built in the 1970s, it had low quality asphalt in reference to the other roads in the country before, and it was destroyed in the civil war that erupted in 1991, therefore, the tarmac disappeared totally. Travelers may sometimes doubt whether there has been a tarmac road there forever because it does not take long time only, but it is dangerous.

Due to the poor infrastructure, in particular, lacking roads and rail ways to ease transport system in my country, it is difficult to benefit from such rich region or regions in the country and we cannot grow economically and cannot have trade with neighboring countries because air transport is expensive locally and internationally. We are now incurring much cost on local flights due this challenge.

Jilib town in middle Jubba region is one of the most fertile region in Somalia; it has agricultural land, sea and livestock. There have been government farms of rice and sugar-cane and sugar factory while Faanoole project, another key development was to provide electricity to whole Somalia failed. Some of the main popular fruits in the region like mango, banana and other fruits were also to be taken to other major cities in the north of the country and outside the country.

Remember, we were Africa' largest exporter of high quality bananas to Middle East, and European markets before the collapse of our central government, and loss of infrastructure.

The latest war on terror in the country worsened the conditions of the old infrastructure because Al-Shabaab militants destroyed some key bridges in the south-central Somalia in recent years.

Just like the Chinese proverb which says, if you want to be rich, build a road. Having better infrastructure mainly roads, railways, dams, bridges, and hydro power projects will make the given gift of richness to Somalia into reality, enable smooth movements, and connecting major towns in the country and neighboring countries. This does not only create economic opportunities, but also brings stable environment.

Fortunately Somalia already signed a Memorandum of Understanding to join BRI and an agreement on enhancing economic and technical cooperation during the Forum on Africa-China Cooperation (FOCAC) in August 31st, 2018 at a ceremony held in Beijing.

The President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping also held discussions on bilateral and multilateral cooperation, trade and investment, new goals towards economic cooperation and efforts to further strengthen the earlier hearty China-Somalia relations.

Let's hope that these agreements which are clearly based on mutual respect and win-win cooperation deliver a Somalia that works for all of us and be part of the shared future for mankind as proposed by President Xi.

Source: Somali National News Agency