Once labelled “The most dangerous city in the world,” Mogadishu is now bustling with activity. New buildings and businesses are emerging from the carnage and lawlessness that pervaded the East African country for more than two decades.
Construction projects are going on for commercial buildings, homes, hotels and shopping malls. Somalis living abroad are returning and investing millions of dollars. The activity is creating jobs for thousands of youths who were previously militiamen. People and vehicles now fill the streets of what was once a ghost town.
According to Abdirashid Duale, the chief executive office of Dahabshiil, the largest money-transfer business in the Horn of Africa with over 29 offices in Mogadishu, the capital city is experiencing a commercial boom. Dahabshiil has seen a 20 per cent rise in its Mogadishu transactions in recent months, and the Somali shilling has been getting stronger against the dollar.
“We have noticed that some of our customers are rebuilding their property. There is also a high demand for rental property, especially for business premises,” he notes. With many people from the diaspora returning to Somalia, demand for property and accommodation far exceeds supply, thus pushing up rental prices in the prime areas of Mogadishu.
“Real estate is booming in Mogadishu. I had a meeting with a client and he said Mogadishu was becoming like Manhattan or central London. There is talking of incredible prices when it comes to property,” says Mursal Mak, a home developer who left Somali in 1987 and returned in 2009. For Somalis who have been living in exile in various parts of the world, the new Mogadishu is a big investment venture and a blessing.
“Security is still not quite reliable, but people decided they wanted to return their life to normal,” Trader Ahmed Sheikh Gure says. “People are rebuilding their destroyed buildings,” he adds, waving towards a newly repaired shop and a busy construction site.
The scars of war remain clear with thousands of displaced people living in and around Mogadishu, many in temporary shanties, rag-and-plastic shelters. Some live in the crumbling ruins of roofless houses.
In Bakara market, the capital’s war-torn economic heart, the signs of battle are, however, fading slowly. “You can’t even imagine that war has ever taken place here,” says Gure. “Thanks to God, because people now have the opportunity to rebuild.”
Bakara, for many months, was the epicentre of violence in one of the world’s most dangerous capitals, forcing residents to flee and businesses to close down. “Reconstruction is expensive, but those who can are repairing their homes, plastering and painting over bullet-riddled walls, and blocking the holes created by rocket- propelled grenades. Most of the buildings in our neighbourhood have been renovated in recent weeks and are looking good. The area is no longer looking like one reeling in the aftermath of war,” says Fadumo Maalim, a resident. Despite an ongoing regional offensive with Ethiopian troops fighting in the west, AU troops in Mogadishu and Kenyan troops