Somaliland’s president, Ahmed Mahamoud Silanyo, was in London in December pressing business leaders and politicians to invest in and recognise the self-declared republic.
Mr Silanyo came to power in July 2010 after winning an election deemed fair by international observers such as the US-based International Republican Institute.
Somaliland is not recognised by any countries, though many have informal relations with its government. Mr Silanyo says he is eagerly awaiting the outcome of an upcoming referendum on independence in South Sudan, as he believes a successful result there could pave the way for official status for Somaliland.
In an exclusive interview with fDi Magazine, a deliberate but succinct Mr Silanyo said on the issue of statehood: “It is very difficult to say when it is going to happen. But we can say that we in Somaliland have always sought and struggled to get the independence and recognition we need. We know that’s not an easy thing to achieve immediately, but still it remains our main goal.
“However, we also know that we have been working with the international community and the international community has been engaging with us, giving us assistance and working with us in our democratisation and development programmes. And we are very happy with the way the international community has been dealing with us, particularly the UK, the US, other European nations and our neighbours who continue to seek recognition.”
The president said that he had spoken to many businesses during his two-week UK visit about investment opportunities in Somaliland’s mineral, fisheries and agriculture sectors. While he described these meetings as “encouraging”, he did admit that no deals had been signed on his visit and that potential investments were still very much in a preliminary phase.
Nonetheless, he believes that FDI will play a large part in the country’s development, and is offering foreign companies three-year tax holidays and 100% ownership of projects.
Mr Silanyo, who has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in economics from the University of Manchester in the UK, also detailed plans for his five-year term, which will end in 2015. He says he intends to improve the country’s infrastructure, make its political system more transparent and make its civil and financial services sectors more efficient. Somaliland’s constitution limits him to two terms as president, but he would not be drawn on his political future.
He said: “I hope to finish out my term and, after that, we’ll have to see.”