The new terminal at the Aden Adde International Airport in Mogadishu, Somalia, stands tall, sticking out as the symbol of a new bold and emerging nation. The terminal is significant in many ways. One, it’s a symbol of the desire of the Somali to pick up the pieces and reconstruct a country that has for decades been ravaged by war.
Two, it represents one of the most serious statements of intent by the government to improve the way business is conducted in Somalia, and that is by rebuilding the overall transport infrastructure.
Analyst say Somalia’s economy needs this kind of infrastructural development. Besides boosting confidence in the country, such development helps create optimism among the population that a sense of normalcy could be returning to the country. The new airport terminal was opened on January 25. Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan was the chief guest. The terminal has separate areas for domestic and international arrivals and departure. It has a VIP lounge, cargo section, and a cafeteria.
Above, the new terminal at Aden Adde International Airport in Mogadishu. Top and right, crew and staff get busy at the same airport. The old terminal will be demolished to create more space for aircrafts and cargo. Although small in terms of capacity as compared to other international airports, this is a milestone development relative to the situation in Somalia in the last two decades. “For the moment, this is fine for the people of Somalia. The terminal, if anything, has one of the best electronic security systems,” says Mr Mohamed Egal, the deputy Manager of Somali Civil Aviation and Meteorology Authority (SCAMA).
The new terminal is constructed to modern standards. It will be controlled by a biometric system that meets all the international requirements set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), through the Chicago convention. The convention requires that all countries be members, and Somalia is the newest addition. The old airport in Mogadishu was constructed in 1965 by the Italian government.
The facility has not seen any major redevelopment for many years. Although it has been in use, security and poor facilities have been major sources of concern. Aden Adde airport has a runway of about 3.5km. It currently receives about 12 flights a day, with most of the passengers being business persons, Somalis from the diaspora and relief workers.
Egal, however, expects tremendous improvement in cargo and passenger numbers with the recent expansion at the airport. About 21 countries have already signed agreements with the Somali government on aviation exchange protocols. Some of the international couriers will start flying into and out of the country soon. This protocol has been signed with Turkey, Yemen, Egypt, Qatar, Kuwait, Kenya, Uganda, and the United Arab Emirates, among other countries.
Egal says that the country is in the process of signing similar agreements with other countries like Ethiopia and several European countries. “We also have Russia on the pending list. They will be renewing their link to Somalia as it was a major development partner before the conflict,” he adds. Turkish Airline, one of the biggest international air transport companies with flights across the world, has daily flights to Mogadishu.
The Kenya based East African Safari Air Express too has regular flights to Mogadishu and other regions of Somalia. The strategic location of Somalia, especially as an entry to the Horn of Africa, makes it an attractive destination for airlines. The enterprising spirit of the Somali and their connection to international businesses is another key factor that provides a lot of optimism for the regional aviation industry.
The other cause for optimism is resources that Somalia seems to hold, both natural and human. Apart from minerals, the country has a big potential for livestock and fisheries exports. It also has the longest coastline in Africa, stretching 3,666km. This provides a huge opportunity for marine transport and tourism. Egal explains that if these potentials are properly exploited, the country could be exporting marine products to Kigali in an hour’s flight. And in three hours, fresh meat could be landing in several Middle East Countries, in large quantities.
“The development in the aviation industry is good news and a sign that the country is slowly picking itself up from the brink. We are optimistic that the current relative peace will prevail and be the beginning of better times,” says Egal.
Apart from the obvious business benefits that will accrue from the construction of the new facility, the fact that the Somali will now be able to control their own airspace is a major boost to their confidence and patriotism. Since 1995, the air control has been operating from Kenya, placed on the hands of ICAO through the UN, in a little compound in Nairobi’s Gigiri. The UN was controlling the airspace to avoid any air collision in the absence of a government. The Somalia Civil Aviation Authority, in conjunction with the International Civil Aviation Organisation, finalised a process in 2014 to transfer control of Somalia’s airspace to the new Air Space Management Centre at the capital of Mogadishu.
Human capital deficiency
These developments have nonetheless exposed the need for the country to develop human resource capacity in aviation and in air cargo management.
The human capital deficiency is one of the key concerns not only for the aviation industry, but also for many sectors of Somalia’s economy. The Government of Somalia and the private sector know that building the requisite local human capital is an urgent need.
Economists say no country has achieved sustainable development without highly skilled human resources. To meet part of the expertise required for the civil aviation, the Somalia School of Civil Aviation is expected to reopen in about two months. The school will initially offer up to 12 courses, including aeronautical, aviation security, and air traffic controller, among many others. “The Aviation Training Academy will increase the capacity of the staff that work in Somalia’s airports, and will eliminate the need to seek training outside the country. I am deeply thankful to the Turkish government.
It has been a strong ally of the Somali people and has played a major role in rebuilding the country’s infrastructure, including the airport,” said former immediate Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed. And going forward, a number of other issues also need to be considered in the development of the Somalia aviation
A single airport is not enough for international flights. The country has other airports that are well-positioned. They include the ones in Hargeysia, Berbara, Galkayo and Bosaso. However, these airports need modernisation to handle larger aircrafts covering international routes, both commercial passenger and cargo. Currently, the airport in Mogadishu only has day flights, but that is bound to change with the on-going reconstruction of the facility.
The rebuilding of the airport will see the runway being recalibrated and installed with the Instrument Landing Systems and vital ground equipment that tells aircraft the precise position of the runway. Other facilities being installed are the VHF omni-directional radio range (VOR); the Distance Measuring Equipment (DME); Meteorological Observing System; Precision Approach Lighting System-Category 1; and the Precision Approach Path Indicator. Egal says the airport will be able to operate on a 24-hour basis with the finalisation of the vital installations. The control tower, which is quite essential to an airport, is also near completion.