Somaliland deal good for business
Kenya has deepened its economic diplomacy in the region, tapping Somaliland in what is set to advance bilateral trade between Nairobi and the self-declared country.
While this could be seen as a double-edged sword with Somalia accusing Kenya of meddling in its internal political affairs, a move which has seen Mogadishu declare to have cut diplomatic ties with Kenya, certain sectors of the Kenyan economy are set to leverage this for growth in the short term.
For instance, the deal will not only enhance collaboration in air transport, including setting up return of direct flights between Nairobi and Hargeisa, but will also excite lots of cooperation with Somaliland’s nascent economy.
The move could turn out to be a lifeline for the troubled Kenya Airways which can recoup the Somaliland route, currently being serviced by Ethiopia Airlines.
Direct flights will, therefore, see KQ fly directly to Hargeisa, opening the market for delivery of perishable goods such as khat (Miraa).
It is important to note that Somalia currently allows Ethiopia to export its Miraa to Somaliland, technically locking Kenya out of this crucial market, but direct flights will change this.
Among others, the decision will spur cooperation in various sectors and deepen cooperation between the ports of Mombasa and new Berbera port.
With Kenya’s superior education sector and huge pool of specialists, the ties will ensure exchange of skills and allow local manpower to offer services there.
Actually, this is already happening, since most of Somaliland’s hospitality industry is being managed by Kenyans.
To effect these commitments, therefore, the two leaders must ensure the Kenyan consulate in Hargeisa opens as soon as possible as Somaliland upgrades its liaison office in Nairobi.
While at it, the two countries must work together to safeguard peace and stability in the Horn of Africa region particularly in regard to Al-Shabaab militants who continue to pose significant threats.
More importantly, the diplomatic row simmering with Mogadishu must be resolved as soon as possible since the ongoing stalemate has already seen Kenya lose millions of shillings in foreign exchange earnings after Miraa from Nairobi was banned from accessing the Somalia market.
The technocrats who authored the latest pact must move with speed to cushion Miraa farmers and the country from the underlying impact of this tiff.