Somalia has the potential to rise from its ashes and become a regional trade hub along the Suez Canal and the Gulf of Aden through implementation of a wise development plan and the devoted hard work of Somalis inside and outside the country, according to the head of the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA).
“We will of course continue our work in Somalia thanks to the energy and power provided to us by our government, but it’s essential that they effectuate their own dynamics and activate their own entrepreneurs through joint ventures and partnerships,” Dr. Serdar Çam, head of TİKA, told theHürriyet Daily News in an interview.
Çam underlined the importance of the opening of all transportation channels from and to Somalia to be able to trade with neighboring and other regional countries. “I certainly believe that effective trade could be launched given the potential of the country, especially in the fields of animal breeding, fishery, forestry and agriculture, if these transportation channels are opened,” he said.
This infrastructure would help Somalia to become a regional trade hub, just like Dubai and Djibouti, connecting the Suez Canal to the Indian Ocean and to the rest of the world. “It could even be considered for a future free trade zone. The country, we believe, has the potential to quickly recover,” he said.
Somalia has vast lands and is home to 9 to 10 million people, including its diaspora. “Numerous representatives of the Somali diaspora have come to us to say that they are ready to help the development of the country.
‘We want to assist our country,’ they tell us. In this sense, Turkish Airlines’ starting direct flights to Somalia has become a milestone. This allows Somalis residing in the United States, Canada and elsewhere to travel easily to Mogadishu, where they may opt to make investments,” he said.
Even the inaugural Turkish Airlines flight to Mogadishu on March 6, 2012 carried a number of Somalis who were excited to see their motherland. “I am of the opinion that this process [of reconstruction] will bear fruit within two to three years,” Çam said.
What makes Çam believe in the potential of Somalia, the world’s poorest country and the theater of a deadly civil wars since the early 1990s, is its history, which proves that the people in this region were once prominent merchants.
“When we are talking about Somalia, we should be aware that we are talking about a country that has a very deep history. In fact, Somalia was part of a big Habesha kingdom (known as the Empire of Abyssinia) which was dissolved after World War I,” Çam said. Part of this region remained under Ottoman rule between the 16th and 19th centuries.
“We know that they were also very talented and experienced in commerce and trade. It still has reflections today. They are capable of producing serious added value with modest means,” he said, adding that Turkey and the international community should help reveal this potential by helping Somalia to enrich its human and infrastructure resources to this end.
TİKA’s main responsibility is to coordinate state and civilian institutions’ activities inSomalia in the framework of a broad master plan that envisages responding to the immediate, mid-run and long-run needs of the country.
Thanks to TİKA’s coordinator role, Turkey’s assistance to Somalia is being carried out almost without problems and with great success.
“In the first days of our campaign, Somalia’s ports were almost empty; there was no activity at the port. But now ships have to wait offshore before unloading their cargo due to the increased traffic. In this sense, it’s an important indicator,” he said.
Another indication is the fact that the Turkish humanitarian campaign has drawn the attention of the international community and occasionally helped other countries to provide assistance. “We thank all the countries from West or East who help Somalia, though belatedly.”
But like all other Turkish officials, Çam emphasized that assistance from the outside will have a limited effect in rebuilding Somalia. “People in Somalia should be aware that the ongoing conflict will only hurt them. Success in Somalia is very much linked to political stability. That means they should be able to solve own problems through internal dynamics,” Çam said.
On the other hand, the international community should be very sensitive not to regard the country through the lens of colonial periods, he added. “They should convince Somalis that they do not have a political agenda.”
This in fact stands as the motto of TİKA, an institution now 20 years old. “For us, the magic word is sincerity. If you feel that your assistance has nothing to do with political objectives, settling accounts or getting economic revenues then success follows,” Çam said.
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