When a high-level delegation from Qatar lead by Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani who is not only the foreign minister but also the deputy prime minister of Qatar, visited Somalia, many people expected something substantial. In many ways, however, it is suspected that the recent mission, other than holding a number of meetings with top government officials, will not yield much.
While the bid to save Somalia are lauded as a good gesture, on a more positive note, the focus could have been more on bilateral agreements between the Somalia and Qatar governments. The latest visit should have offered some optimism. So far, it has always been all of pledges. This has really invoked questions from the Somali people with one of the biggest concern being whether the ping pong game (of not fulfilling pledges) will come to an end. Qatar is better off bringing something substantial on the table.
While Qatar’s commitment to work with Somalia is not in doubt, why then is it that they are yet to implement some of their pledges? Why can’t they find even a single development project and stick with it for the long haul? What did Qatar delegation bring on the table when they visited Mogadishu? Will they now ready to redeem themselves?
Many people blame the Qatar government for falling short of investments ideas. Some experts suggest that there are plenty of ways to bring something on the table such as working with ministries that include Foreign Affairs, Interior and Federal Affairs, Finance as well as Defence. The deal between the two countries ought to be about strengthening these ministries. It is not easy to do so if no substantial investment is in the mix.
Indeed, nature of relationship between Qatar and Somalia has been characterised by empty promises. Knowing all these, and also the fact that a majority of governments are charmed by economic boost, it is now that the pledges should be fulfilled. Some obvious examples of investments include projects like road construction, building hospitals and schools, provision of strong policies, just to mention a few.
One of the main takeaway from the visit of the Qatari is the construction of the Hobyo port, well, this is the second time the Qatari is making such promises, Hobyo port investments will be a huge contribution to the Somali economics.
The main question, however, is whether this deal will go through. Will the Hobyo port project see the end of the tunnel with this recently signed project? According to a statement from the Qatari government, the project “will contribute to opening new horizons of cooperation between the two countries.”
Keeping pledges going
In the last issue of Warsan Magazine, we focused on the role that Qatar can play, noting that, it should come up with ways of doing development projects in Somalia. Additionally, opening markets for the Somali livestock and perhaps extending their cooperation to include sectors like security and agriculture can save the Horn of Africa country a lot.
Delivery of projects is what Somalia really needs at the moment. Qatari government can help build stability and security by supporting development activities in Somalia. For example, the pledge of rehabilitating and re-building two life-line projects that connect the FGS capital, Mogadishu to the states of Hir-Shabelle and the Southwest, which was recently launched by the Qatari government should not fell short of financing. Qatar government needs to make it happen and invest in such projects.
Past projects by government of Qatar in Somalia which are valued at billions of dollars, lack visibility, Try to picture the construction of the former Head Quarters of the Somali Socialist Revolutionary Party [SSRP], rebuilding the Siad military academy in Mogadishu as well as construction of the Somali navy headquarters. All these remain to be pledges to be redeemed by Qatar government.
From as early as 2017, precisely after Mohamed Abdullahi (popular as Farmajo) was elected as the president of the Federal Government of Somalia, the Qatar fund for International Development have signed agreements worth USD 200 million.
Overall, cooperation between Qatar and Somalia should focus on key areas such as infrastructure and reconstruction, rural development, health, promote good governance, accelerate economic recovery and create jobs, such initiatives can play a significant role in supporting Somalia’s efforts to become a peaceful.
Those areas are relevant to the Horn of Africa country considering the fact that capacities of most institutions are yet to improve. As Somalia continues to develop, the importance of good relationship with various countries including Qatar will remain strong and smooth. We should expect substantial pledges to increase.