ubai-based budget airline, flydubai’s inaugural flight to Hargeisa, Somaliland landed yesterday at Hargeisa Egal International Airport marking the launch of a direct four times weekly service to Hargeisa, making it the first carrier to ply the route.

Somaliland has been an autonomous region of Somalia for more than 20 years, but its self-proclaimed independence is yet to be recognized by any country or international organisation. It is internationally recognised as part of greater Somalia where terrorist group Al Shabaab is based and piracy is rife. But it is illegal to carry a Somali passport in Somaliland. However, outside the country, its citizens are treated as Somalis. Those who want to travel abroad can easily buy a Somali passport on the streets of Hargeisa for $45.

For such constrained economy, the business sense in operating flights to its capital four times a week will be questioned by anyone. However, flydubai saw an opportunity in operating in the underserved market. “We strive to provide underserved markets with direct air links to Dubai,” said Ghaith Al Ghaith, Chief Executive Officer of flydubai.

The airline targets the Somali diaspora who account for the most important financial flow into Somalia and visit the country around the same time. A report published in 2013, by Oxfam America, puts the value of transfers by Somali Americans and Somalis in the US at an estimated $215 million annually. This accounts for about 4 percent of the country’s GDP.

Flydubai, which is owned by the government of Dubai may also have considered extending its operations to Hargeisa due to the relationship between the United Arab Emirate (UAE) and the government of Somaliland. President Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud “Silanyo” met with the UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and the UAE minister for presidency Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan bin Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan on Tuesday. They discussed a range of bilateral issues, especially strengthening the existing relations between the two countries.

After a visit to Somaliland, Ventures Africa Contributor, Kurtis Davis Jr., noted that the country looked like Dubai, UAE’s most populous city 20 years ago. The UAE is helping the autonomous country grow its economy. It is currently funding projects in Somaliland.

The country which has miles of untouched golden beaches, coral reefs, ancient artifacts and some of Africa’s most skilled traders, has potentials in tourism and trade.

Flydubai’s Senior Vice President, Commercial (GCC, Subcontinent, Africa), Sudhir Sreedharan says the carrier is committed to creating free flows of trade and tourism between the regions it operates.

“We believe that our reliable and convenient passenger and cargo services will help to open up the trade opportunities between Hargeisa and Dubai and onward destinations,” said Sreedharan.