Port Challenges In East Africa Afford A Golden Opportunity For Berbera ( Mark T Jones (International Speaker & Leadership Specialist) http://www.marktjones.com



Somaliland’s government has signaled its eagerness to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) projects and views the upgrading and expansion of the port as integral to the development of the Berbera Corridor. In recent years a number of companies including France’s Bolloré Africa Logistics the Hong Kong based, Hutchison Port Holdings (HPH), and Holland-based, APM Terminals have expressed an interest in playing a role in the Port of Berbera, with the French company committed to being a key investor.   Further interest looks set to follow and before too long Berbera will be in a position to offer effective competition to Djibouti.

Berbera has very considerable potential, but whether that is fully realized will depend on whether those in a position to affect change have the vision and drive to carry things forward.  Economic activity across the region is undergoing a tremendous period of realignment, with major investors tending to view things in a regional rather than a national context. Whilst Somaliland’s current status and recent history may discourage some investors, for others they can see a real opportunity for Somaliland to emulate at Berbera the success of Iran’s Chabahar Free Trade & Industrial Zone and similarly that at Quesh and Kish Island, both of which are free trade zones. Rather than merely looking at Berbera as a trade entry and exit point, it needs to be viewed as a regional hub, one that is a magnet for investment and a key centre for employment and capacity development.  If a Berbera Free Trade & Industrial Zone were to be created it would be essential that it offered incentives comparable with similar zones across the region. Reasonable elements would include:

  • 15 years tax exemption
  • No entry visa requirement
  • 100% foreign ownership possible
  • Flexible monetary and banking services
  • Extended legal guarantees and protection

Berbera Port would need to try to avoid the mistakes that continue to dog both Mombasa and Dar es Salaam. The twin foci should be efficiency and security. Planners would be required to give thought to ensuring provision for the handling of dry cargo, bulk liquid cargo, general cargo and containerized cargo. Aerated and temperature controlled grain terminals add considerable value, as does the ability to offer fumigation services. The emphasis needs to be on modern handling and warehousing equipment, with computerized warehouse management systems and state of the art inventory controls. Use of blended energy solutions, especially solar and wind would be integral to the success of such a port, especially one that will be required to offer refrigeration and storage facilities as well all the attendant anti-theft measures. The provision of bonded warehouses and engineering and maintenance facilities will be essential. Building sustainability into the port will help efficiency, but also enable a keener appreciation of waste as potential assets, as well as ensuring staff are vigilant in regards to the handling and security concerning the handling of hazardous materials or potential pollutants. Planners and management will also be required to give thought to:

  • Integrating ports, inland terminals and logistics network to improve supply chain performance
  • Expectations from exporters and shipping lines
  • Transport capacity and efficiency planning
  • Time and motion studies
  • Robust vetting and due diligence mechanisms
  • Appointment on merit Mark T Joneshttp://www.marktjones.com
  • (International Speaker & Leadership Specialist)
  • Somaliland’s remarkable resilience, especially over the last 23 years speaks volumes of its inner spirit, but the development of a highly efficient and effective port, with adjacent free trade and industrial area will require a truly Olympian effort. A lack of international recognition coupled with confirmation bias means that attracting the appropriate funding levels required will be tough and potential investors are anxious to see a genuine commitment to business friendly policies.  Potential investors are decidedly wary, especially as they have seen or heard how factionalism, patronage and nepotism have undermined efforts elsewhere. Regional security issues continue to loom large, as do anxieties is certain quarters concerning China’s potential involvement in view of its so-called ‘String of Pearls’ policy. Berbera Port Authority (www.berberaseaport.net) has begun to articulate its message with greater clarity, but if Berbera’s true potential is to be realized it is vital that the port is seen as part of a far more ambitious project, one that will not just benefit Somaliland, but the region as a whole. As for Berbera itself, the city will require measured and sensitive development that draws inspiration from vernacular architectural traditions, whilst incorporating the features expected of a forward thinking commercial centre. Special attention will be required to provide safeguards and measures designed to protect its delicate coastal habitat, and a concerted effort made to green the city to reduce dust and help provide filter for pollutants as the city grows and expands. As things stand it looks as though activity in Mombasa and Dar es Salaam ports will continue much as before, thus Berbera has a golden opportunity to position itself as a lean and efficient player.  Such enlightened development if it takes place will not only provide much needed employment, but may help to change some of the preconceptions and misconceptions that have proved so harmful to the region and to the continent of Africa as a whole.

Mark T Jones

(International Speaker & Leadership Specialist)


Mark T Jones

(International Speaker & Leadership Specialist)








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