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Civil War, Anarchy....Yet Somalia's Mobile Phone Industry Thrives


A number of mobile phone, Internet and landline companies are revolutionizing Somalia’s telecommunications industry.

Among their customers are farmers and business people.

Establishing a phone company and making it profitable in a country where there is no government is a challenge according to sales and marketing director for Nationlink Telecom, Abdulahi Amir.

“When the country’s civil war occurred, a growing need for people to communicate with each other came about as families became dispersed. The industry took off throughout the country almost immediately since there was no other form for people to communicate,” Amir says.

Weak Governance Creates Advantage

Compared to land lines, cell phones require little infrastructure and can be made available almost immediately.

Because of the absence of a central government, there is no bureaucracy to issue a license, or tax the industry. However traditional clans, make sure bills are paid and contracts honored.

No matter how dire the situation in Somalia, the entrepreneurial spirit lives on. By building small airstrips and using natural harbors businessmen are able to import cell phones, from faraway places like China.

Nationlink, Hormuud and Telecomare are three mobile companies doing business in Somalia. Together, they have created the Global Internet Company, which provides their customers with mobile service and high quality access to the Internet.

Mobile Phones Bring People Together

"Because of the cell link people can stay in touch with their loved ones even though they are very far apart," says Abdalla, a resident of Mogadishu.

“Some people have been separated from their parents, siblings and extended family members for more than 10 years but have been able to talk to them on a daily basis as if they were in Mogadishu together,” Abdalla points out.

The mobile phone has contributed to efficiency in the work place, and has improved communications among co-workers. But the biggest benefit of the cell phone in Somalia according to Abdalla is helping people look out for one another.

“A friend can easily call me and tell me an explosion occurred in that part of the town or troops have launched an attack [on that street] so avoid traveling through those areas,” Abdalla says.

Many Somalis hope the new transitional government will bring about change and ultimately peace. But one change they don’t want is interference with a telecommunications system that’s actually thriving in a country were the central government is practically non-existent.

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