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Somalia upbeat about trade relations with China
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19:21, September 14, 2009

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Although Somalia has been embroiled in civil war mainly in its south central part for the past two decades, the government says trade within and outside the country is doing well and considers China to be its main trading partner in the world.

"Somalis are born business people. They have the power and capability to initiate businesses," said Abdelkadsir Mohamed Irro, Somalia's minister of trade, in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.

Irro says despite the nearly two decades of civil conflict which earned the country the label of a failed state, the Somali business community has been very active and working very hard in establishing trade contacts throughout the world.

He added the trade within Somalia was doing well as private business enterprises, mainly telecommunications sector, local money transfer services, as well as small manufacturing, are booming.

Speaking about the trade relations between Somalia and China, Somalia's trade minister said the two nations have a long history of cooperation and trade relations extending to hundreds of years.

"Somalia and China have a very good trade relationship and it has been a very long time more than 500 years ago and up to now we have a good trade relationship with China," said Minister Irro, adding that most Somali businesses people deal with Chinese traders and import diverse products from China.

The minister noted that previous development projects that were implemented by the Chinese government in Somalia include roads, sports stadia, hospitals, saying he considers Chinese people to be brothers and sisters to Somalis.

"I do believe that the Chinese have the capacity and capability that they can develop the business that we need to implemented in the future," Irro said.

Minister Irro said most of Somalia's imports are coming from China, attributing that to the facilities provided to Somali businesses communities by China.

"They (business people) are getting access to go there (China) and to see the market of China. They are getting visa for the Somali business people, so China is doing a lot of things for them and are facilitating so that the Somalis can the materials they need from Chinese markets," Irro told Xinhua.

The strength of Somalia's trade with China is very visible in most Somali markets where almost all the construction materials, electronics, telecommunications equipment and textiles are imported from the east Asian economic giant.

"We prefer the Chinese goods over the others because of two main aspects: that is quality and price," said Omar Abdi, a shopper in Mogadishu's main Bakara market, the largest in Somalia.

Many business people at the market have offices and agents in China who coordinate their imports which mainly comes to the horn of Africa country through the United Arab Emirates where smaller ships that can risk Somalia waters are available.

Although the Somali minister of trade acknowledged that trade with China was largely "one way," he was optimistic that export from Somalia to China could grow, urging the bettering of the relationship between the two nations.

"China can find a lot of useful products in Somalia like fishery and agriculture and also tourism sector," Irro said.

However, Minister Irro said there were "barriers" to equal and better trading relationship between the two countries.

He said the first major barrier is the current security situation in Somalia particularly in south and center of the country, where Islamist rebels are mainly in control and wage near daily attacks on government forces and African Union peacekeepers in Mogadishu, restive capital of Somalia.

"We need to get our house in order then we can invite people to our country at this stage but in the future I do believe and trust that China will come to our country and we can do a lot of things together."

Minister Irro praised Chinese products for their growing good quality and affordability which he said is what makes them more "attractive" to Somalis, compared with other products from the rest of the world.

He invited all Chinese companies to start investing in the country once the war ravaged country gets peace and stability.

Source: Xinhua

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