By Muna Mohamed Jama
As you’re all aware of Berbera port authority has been deprived of the assistance of world developing agencies like the World Bank, IMF or bilateral funds available from developed governments. The Berbera port authority is severely restricted in its capacity to invest in new equipment because majority of the equipment used in seaports is very expensive and costly in maintaining the equipment’s services.
Since coming to power nearly four years ago, the current government and officials from Somaliland Port management believe the privatization of Berbera ports will pave the way for the modernization of port facilities and boosting Somaliland efforts to serve as a trade hub between the African and Arab worlds
The decision to privatize the port facility attracted interest from a number of sectors including Global port operators such as Hutchison Port Holdings (HPH), APM Terminals, and PSA International may also wish to participate in any bidding in a view to expand their Red Sea portfolio.
As things were starting to look up for the port and before any bidding took place, we started seeing headlines which read as follows:
“Hargeisa has instructed a British lawyer to negotiate with the French group Bolloré to hammer out the details of the agreement to manage Berbera port”
Meetings began about two weeks ago between representatives of Bolloré Africa Logistics and the British law practice McCue & Partners to work on an agreement for the French group to run Berbera port. In fact, several months ago the Somaliland government instructed the firm’s main partner,Jason Daniel McCue, 44, to look for funding to develop the Berbera corridor towards Ethiopia. This is a vast project including an oil pipeline, estimated to cost a total of around $2.5 billion. This mandate was attributed to the Berbera Development Company (BDC) founded by McCue in London in April 2013 to make the Somaliland port into a logistics hub for the whole region.
McCue and BDC have consequently also become Bolloré’s primary contact points for Somaliland. BDC has three directors in addition to McCue, who is interested in security via his MODA Alliance Group. They are the Britons John Richard Moore, 45, who heads John Moore & Co and Ibrahim Ali Yusuf, 41, plus the Canadian Ahmed Mohamed Abokor, 48. The latter lives in Djibouti, where he is in partnership with the businessman Mohamed Said Guedi in the company Afro Shnagai-Djibouti. He is also one of the directors of Pontus Marine Ltd (ION 1359) – an industrial fishing company in Somaliland founded last year in London – alongside the British lawyer from Somaliland, Mohammed Yusef who is moreover the founder of Invicta Capital. Pontus Marine has one heavyweight as a non-executive director: the Conservative MP Henry Bellingham, a former Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in charge of African affairs.
After reading above news, one thing immediately comes to mind Berbera Development Company ,the company which Somaliland government has mandated to turn the Somaliland port into a logistics hub for the whole region and after browsing the net for more information about the company tasked to lobby for investment worth $2.5 Billion will lead you to something like this http://www.berberadevelopmentcompany.com/
This shows the need to clarify outstanding issues regarding the real identity and role of all those mentioned above of whom the Somaliland public know little or nothing expect two and what is there connection with Somaliland government in the deal when the issue, like that raised here , is one of transparency with regard to the proposed secretive port deal and which means if we are experiencing problems with transparency regarding the deal now, one can only imagine what it will be like when the deal is finally signed.
It certainly will not create transparency because if we are having trouble now, the fact is that once the port of Berbera is declared private entity then the Parliament and other governmental organs will find it extraordinarily hard to inquire into the management of that national asset.
Whatever is in the secret port agreement that the current government would want to sign with the new port owner-operator that would be the final deal. If something is not in the contract, there will be no way for a future Somaliland governments or Parliament to influence what is happening in the port, so anything is possible.
It’s clear that there is a sinister plot to rip-off Somalilanders of their national wealth ,no doubt we are not allowed to see that agreement until after it is signed that’s why the current Minister of Foreign affairs Mr. Mohamed Bihi Yonis usually dodges investigative journalists who have being trying to raise the subject. Transparency will be much more difficult under such arrangement. Will it result to a better competitive outcome? I would not imagine so.
If a new owner was to get acquisition of the port from the current government, even at book value it would not be satisfied with that. Bollare Africa logistics will as norms want to squeeze some more juice out of the orange, and there are only a few ways you can do that. One way is to start jacking up port user fees, which of course will have a great impact on local exporters and importers.
The local livestock exporters should be worried about a new private owner of the port of Berbera will be squeezing even more out of them by way of port fees. Things can only get worse under private ownership of the port.
The third point, a new private port owner will be in a position in which they will try to squeeze more profit out of what is, , a well-run port, is exactly the type of thing we should be warned about in here, such as casualisation of the workforce in other words they ‘re in a position to introduce modern mechanized capabilities(Robots) which will pave way for the laying off of port workers one.
Whatever is in the agreement that a punitive KULMIYE government would want to sign with the new port owner-operator that would be the final deal. If something is not in the contract, there will be no way for a future Somaliland administrations or Legislative body to influence what is happening in the port , so anything is possible hence the need to be informed of the concessions made by the government. No doubt we will not see that agreement until after it is signed. Talk about deals shrouded in secrecy not to mention the proposed port privatization will be a multibillion-dollar deal that will be shrouded in secrecy until the deal is done.