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Diaspora Somalis Return Home To Invest As Recovery Takes Root

posted 24 Jan 2014, 06:39 by Mpelembe   [ updated 24 Jan 2014, 06:40 ]

For over two decades, war raged on in Somalia. Its countrymen and women fled and scattered to different parts of the world, where they struggled and established their lives. Today a number of them are returning home to rebuild as Somaliaenjoys relative peace and life slowly returns to normal.

MOGADISHUSOMALIA (AU/UN IST) -  Somalia is increasingly becoming an enticing market for investors, as the country strives to cement security gains against al Qaeda-linked insurgents and spur an economic recovery.

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Many expatriates previously living abroad are slowly returning back home to help rebuild the country.

Naema Adam lived in London for 24 years before deciding to pack up and come back home.

She has set up a brick laying business and is now supplying contractors with building blocks.

"It was a wild idea for a mother to do this. But I thought it was worthwhile in the end, I had spoken to lots of locals and engineers and I had done some research. And then I realized they really need it, Mogadishu is rebuilding, and I thought I should not lose that opportunity," she said.

Such a view would have been unthinkable barely two years ago when al Shabaabrebels still held bases across the capital and other major urban areas in southern and central Somalia.

They have since been pushed back into rural areas and weakened by a military offensive led by African peacekeepers and government forces.

Naema says her choice to start the brick laying business was influenced by a visit to Somalia last year, during which time, she realized that there was need for quality building materials.

The mother of three says it has not been easy sourcing equipment for her business.

"I feel the government could help is to at least give us a discount on the tax at port, to make it easier for people to import machinery, not products and let the people produce the products within the country," she said.

A quick look at the town reveals signs of development, mushrooming construction sites, solar-powered street lamps and beach front cafes that point to a delicate rebound, albeit one largely confined to the city.

Across town at the Top Cut barber shop, clients can now get quality services using modern equipment at the shop run by Abdulqadir Abdul.

The entrepreneur also returned home from the UK last year after living abroad for 23 years.

He says he recently discovered a lot of opportunities and decided it was time to come back home and set up a barber shop in Mogadishu.

"The difference between Bristol and Mogadishu is huge, both from a social and commercial perspective. Currently, breaking into the Mogadishu market is far more challenging due to the effects of the prolonged civil war. However Bristol also has challenges, the extremely long work hours made it very difficult for me to spend time with my family and friends; whereas Somalia is home and I feel like the struggles and sacrifices, which are faced here are far more worthwhile," said Abdul.

Somalia's Government is encouraging Somalis across the world to return home and be part of the reconstruction process.

Civil war has starved Somalia's government of cash and it wants to attract investors willing to put up hundreds of millions of dollars to fund large-scale energy and transport projects.

"This is the best time to come and invest you have the benefit of not being taxed, you have the benefit of getting land if you want industry or want to start your own factory. If you want to start your hospitality business or whatever companies, this is the time to get because it is cheaper now than later it is the time you could what you want as exactly as you want it but later on there will be restrictions so I am encouraging you to come take advantage of the time now, this is a very very rich country and its very beautiful and it needs to be rebuilt," said Fawzia Yusuf H. AdamSomalia's Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Even then, the risks remain high. Al Shabaab suicide bombers have been able to attack sites in Mogadishu with alarming ease. Peacekeepers still patrol the streets in armoured vehicles.

The Horn of Africa country needs rebuilding from scratch. Just 10 percent of its roads are paved while 95 percent of the country's 10 million people have no electricity.