Connecting Mogadishu: Somalia, 2012

13 images Created 20 Nov 2012

BBC Business
Jonathan Kalan
Mogadishu, Somalia

At The Village Restaurant, a popular open-air hangout for Mogadishu's returning diaspora community, a charcoal-powered Italian espresso machine brews Somalia's best cappuccino.

Wi-fi internet beams throughout the cafe, as patrons check email, download music videos, and keep tabs on Somalia's latest news.

As Mogadishu shifts from two decades of civil war to a quivering democracy, opportunities for business - from hotels to off-grid espresso makers to cafes like the Village - are flourishing. And so too are the opportunities for bringing them online.

Perched between the tattered ruins of a flattened landscape, the glow of wireless receiver antennas has gradually replaced the orange glow of stray bullets, bringing a new era of global connectivity and freedom of information to the city's estimated one million residents.

In 2000, Somalia was one of the last African nations to get online. Since then, the internet industry here has seen as much turbulence and turnover as the country itself.

According to Abdulkadir Hassan Ahmed, general manager of Global Internet Company, Somalia's largest internet provider, at least 17 internet companies in Somalia have gone under in the past decade.

It's a tough job. All the time, companies are coming in and going out”

Global Internet Company, founded in 2003 by a consortium of Somalia's leading telecom companies including Hormuud and NationLink, provides dial-up, DSL and some point-to-point wireless.

Yet even Mr Ahmed admits his own company's connections can be slow and expensive. After nearly 10 years in business, Global Internet is almost profitable, he says, but is more of a loss leader for telecoms.

Unlike Somalia's thriving telecoms sector, where two decades of lawlessness, lack of regulation, and cut-throat competition for an increasingly mobile market have driven services up and prices to rock bottom (less than one cent per minute), internet in Mogadishu has been archaic.

Dial-up is the cheapest option, at around $30 (£18) a month per computer, but is painfully slow - less than 56kbs - and highly oversubscribed, according to many.

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