Somaliland on Saturday celebrated the opening of the renovated Berbera International Airport as the country continues to work towards building its young economy.
By opening the refurbished airport, Somaliland is seeking a slice of the growing aviation earnings in the region.
Somaliland President Muse Bihi officially opened the ultra-modernized international airport which is expected to be a major player in the aviation industry in the Horn of Africa.
The modernized complex with state-of-the-art facilities is expected to attract major airlines plying the region.
The United Arab Emirates has funded the refurbishment of the new facility.
While opening the airport, President Bihi said that the people of the Republic of Somaliland were indebted to the good gesture shown by the U.A.E. who aided the aviation industry at a hard time.
“Somaliland is ready to work with any country, whether rich or poor, big or small, that respects the independence of our country,” Bihi stated.
“I specifically want to thank the UAE for continuously supporting development projects in Somaliland,” he added.
He expressed hope that the newly renovated airport, which will operate to international standards, will bring more transit planes from all over the globe hence becoming a new window for investment owing to global integration.
With nearly five kilometers of the runway, the airport will have a newly expanded passenger terminal, including separation between arriving and departing passengers as well as the security separation from the airside.
With a major seaport, Somaliland hopes the airport could add to lucrative connectivity, aiding business with neighbors.
Somaliland Transport minister Mohamed Ibrahim Ataash said the airport would open new avenues for investment in the country hence propping up development.
Former Somaliland envoy to the UAE Ambassador Bashe Omar Awil who played a big role in pushing for the Emirati leadership to engage in development projects in Somaliland was elated at the opening of the refurbished airport.
“It was great seeing the fruition of the Berbera Airport expansion a project that will have a major impact both in Somaliland and to the region in general,” Bashe said.
He added: “This was a project started by previous President Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo and now completed by the current president Muse Bihi Abdi. I have had the pleasure of working under both presidents and I am honored to be part of the team who worked from the start of the project while I was the Somaliland Representative in UAE.”
The internationally unrecognized Somaliland which declared its independence in 1991, is striving to achieve economic progress through relations with willing countries and institutions.
The United Arab Emirates and Taiwan are some of the countries that have built relationships with Somaliland.
DP World, a leading ports operator from the UAE, has rebuilt and injected capital in the port of Berbera.
Officials from Transportation Infrastructure Services (TIS), a company that specialises in development and management, stated that the UAE had injected $55 million in rebuilding the Berbera International Airport for passenger and cargo services.
“The capital was used for the rebuilding of the runway, lighting, entire building of the terminal and equipment, and installation of airspace services facilities,” the TIS officials stated.
The Berbera airport was initially built by the Soviet Union in the mid-1970s, with a 4km runway. It was used for military and civilian purposes.
The airport was later to be rented to the United States Space Agency NASA in 1980 as an emergency landing site for the Space Shuttle until 1991 when the military rule of the late General Mohamed Siad Barre ended following the collapse of the central government in Mogadishu as a result of insurgency.
The rebel group that seized the northwestern regions, the Somali National Movement (SNM), declared Somaliland an independent state.
The uniqueness about Berbera is that it faces the Gulf of Aden and is a short distance from Bab-el-Mandeb, a strait between Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula and Djibouti and Eritrea in the Horn of Africa.
With a large number of commercial vessels plying between Asia and Europe, passing through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, Somaliland intends to benefit from an Exclusive Economic Free Zone next to the Berbera port and airport, forming a gateway to commerce with landlocked Ethiopia and other countries.