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Somalia woos international investors

28 May 2013, 18:05

Nairobi - Somalia opened its first investment conference in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on Tuesday to showcase opportunities that exist in the Horn of Africa nation.

Participants at the conference said Somalia will be the next frontier for rapid investments across all sectors of the economy as the Horn of Africa state enjoys relative peace and stability after two decades of turmoil.

Somali Minister for Foreign Affairs Mohamed Omar said his country's rebirth has created investments opportunities in strategic sectors of the economy including agriculture, transport, energy and fisheries.

"Resumption of peace, stability and democratic governance has opened new business opportunities in Somalia. We have invited the Somali Diaspora and foreigners to come and be part of the nation's rebirth," Omar told investors in Nairobi.

He told the Somali reconstruction and investment conference that economic growth is the current focus of the new government in Mogadishu to ensure stability and cohesion is entrenched across the wider society.

The minister noted that lately, foreign direct investments in Somalia have surged against a backdrop of security and establishment of a business friendly legal and policy framework.

"We have strengthened two way trade with Ethiopia while Djibouti has invested heavily in Somalia. Foreign direct investment from Turkey, Egypt, China and United Arab Emirates are at an all time high," Omar said.

He added that new investors have expressed keen interest in livestock, fisheries and hydrocarbons. "We have signed agreements with foreign companies to explore oil and natural gas in Somalia," Omar said.

The new Somalia government has prioritized infrastructure development and establishment of a conducive regulatory environment to attract domestic and foreign investors.

"Reconstruction will focus on roads, ports, schools and hospitals while new infrastructure like fiber optic cable will be implemented to revitalize business," said Omar.

He revealed that plans are afoot to build new tanneries across Somalia alongside expand basic services like water and health.

Somalia is ready for an economic revival after the resumption of peace and rule of law in the country.

The Somalia Minister for Commerce and Industry, Mohamud Ahmed Hassan, stressed that there are boundless investment opportunities in the country. "Private sector has a critical role to play in Somalia reconstruction," Hassan said.

"We also have one of the largest coastlines in Africa, two big rivers, huge tracts of land as well as unexplored natural gas and oil resources," he said.

Hassan noted that livestock products constitute the largest export segment while machinery and food products are main imports. Hassan disclosed that the government made changes to the foreign investments law.

"We are only waiting for approval of the national assembly," he said. British High Commissioner to Somalia Matt Baugh said that the conference marks a new chapter for Somalia and the region.

"It will provide an impetus for the Somalia government to establish effective structures that are required for a thriving business environment," he said. Baugh said that following the end of the decade long transition, investors' appetite for Somalia has increased.

"We hope that reconstruction efforts will promote inclusive economic growth that will provide jobs opportunities for Somalis," he said.

"This will go a long way in providing an alternative to taking arms," he said. The British envoy added that international financial institutions could provide large scale finance required to build basic infrastructure.

"It will reduce the cost of doing business in Somalia, so that it improves competitiveness," he said. He noted that piracy has reduced by 80 percent since its peak following concerted international military efforts.

Somalia Ambassador to Kenya Mohamed Americo said that by holding the conference in Nairobi, the Somali government reaffirmed Kenya's critical role in his country's reconstruction.

"Most of ambassadors sent to Somalia as well as United Nations agencies and investors are based in Kenya," Americo said, adding that over 50 companies have expressed interest in exploring investment opportunities.

Americo noted that the security is not 100 percent but has improved tremendously compared to few years ago.

- Xinhua

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