Communications in Somalia
Communications in Somalia encompasses the communications services and capacity of Somalia. Telecommunications, internet, radio, print, television and postal services in the nation are largely concentrated in the private sector. Several of the telecom firms have begun expanding their activities abroad. The federal government operates two official radio and television networks, which exist alongside a number of private and foreign stations. Print media in the country is also progressively giving way to news radio stations and online portals, as internet connectivity and access increases. Additionally, the national postal service is slated to be officially relaunched in 2013 after a long absence. In 2012, a National Communications Act was also approved by Cabinet members, which lays the foundation for the establishment of a National Communications regulator in the broadcasting and telecommunications sectors.
After the start of the civil war, various new telecommunications companies began to spring up in the country and competed to provide missing infrastructure. Somalia now offers some of the most technologically advanced and competitively priced telecommunications and internet services in the world. Funded by Somali entrepreneurs and backed by expertise from China, Korea and Europe, these nascent telecommunications firms offer affordable mobile phone and internet services that are not available in many other parts of the continent. Customers can conduct money transfers (such as through the popular Dahabshiil) and other banking activities via mobile phones, as well as easily gain wireless Internet access.
After forming partnerships with multinational corporations such as Sprint, ITT and Telenor, these firms now offer the cheapest and clearest phone calls in Africa. These Somali telecommunication companies also provide services to every city, town and hamlet in Somalia. There are presently around 25 mainlines per 1,000 persons, and the local availability of telephone lines (tele-density) is higher than in neighboring countries; three times greater than in adjacent Ethiopia. Prominent Somali telecommunications companies include Golis Telecom Group, Hormuud Telecom, Somafone, Nationlink, Netco, Telcom and Somali Telecom Group. Hormuud Telecom alone grosses about $40 million a year. Despite their rivalry, several of these companies signed an interconnectivity deal in 2005 that allows them to set prices, maintain and expand their networks, and ensure that competition does not get out of control.
In 2008, Dahabshiil acquired a majority stake in SomTel, a Hargeisa-based telecommunications firm specialising in high speed broadband, mobile internet, and mobile phone services. The acquisition provided Dahabshiil with the necessary platform for a subsequent expansion into mobile banking, a growth industry in the regional banking sector.
Investment in the telecom industry is held to be one of the clearest signs that Somalia's economy has continued to develop despite civil strife in parts of the country. The sector provides key communication services, and in the process facilitates job creation and income generation.
On March 22, 2012, the Somali Cabinet unanimously approved the National Communications Act, which paves the way for the establishment of a National Communications regulator in the broadcasting and telecommunications sectors. The bill was passed following consultations between government representatives and communications, academic and civil society stakeholders. According to the Ministry of Information, Posts and Telecommunications, the Act is expected to create an environment conducive to investment and the certainty it provides will encourage further infrastructural development, resulting in more efficient service delivery.
Companies providing telecommunication services in Somalia include:
The national postal infrastructure was completely destroyed during the civil war. In order to fill the vacuum, Somali Post signed an agreement in 2003 with the United Arab Emirates' Emirates Post to process mail to and from Somalia. Emirates Post's mail transit hub at the Dubai International Airport was then used to forward mail from Somalia to the UAE and various Western destinations, including Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Switzerland and Canada.
Concurrently, the Somali Transitional Federal Government began preparations to revive the national postal service. The government's overall reconstruction plan for Somali Post is structured into three Phases spread out over a period of ten years. Phase I will see the reconstruction of the postal headquarters and General Post Office (GPO), as well as the establishment of 16 branch offices in the capital and 17 in regional bases. As of March 2012, the Somali authorities have re-established Somalia's membership with the Universal Postal Union (UPU), and taken part once again in the Union's affairs. They have also rehabilitated the GPO in Mogadishu, and appointed an official Postal Consultant to provide professional advice on the renovations. Phase II of the rehabilitation project involves the construction of 718 postal outlets from 2014 to 2016. Phase III is slated to begin in 2017, with the objective of creating 897 postal outlets by 2022.
In December 2012, Minister of Information, Posts and Telecommunications, Abdullah Elmoge Hirsi, announced that Somalia's new Federal Government plans to officially re-launch the Somali Postal Service in 2013.
Additionally, DHL Express offers drop-off and collection mail services in several locations in Mogadishu, and Australia Post provides Sea Mail parcel delivery services to Somalia destinations.
There are a number of radio news agencies based in Somalia. Established during the colonial period, Radio Mogadishu initially broadcast news items in both Somali and Italian. The station was modernized with Russian assistance following independence in 1960, and began offering home service in Somali, Amharic and Oromo. After closing down operations in the early 1990s due to the civil war, the station was officially re-opened in the early 2000s by the Transitional National Government. In the late 2000s, Radio Mogadishu also launched a complementary website of the same name, with news items in Somali, Arabic and English.
Other radio stations based in Mogadishu include HornAfrik, Mustaqbal Media corporation and the Shabelle Media Network, the latter of which was in 2010 awarded the Media of the Year prize by the Paris-based journalism organisation, Reporters Without Borders (RSF). In total, about one short-wave and ten private FM radio stations broadcast from the capital, with several radio stations broadcasting from the central and southern regions.
The northeastern Puntland region has around six private radio stations, including Radio Garowe, Radio Daljir, Radio Codka-Nabbada and Radio Codka-Mudug. Radio Gaalkacyo, formerly known as Radio Free Somalia, operates from Galkayo in the north-central Mudug province. Radio Laascaanood broadcasts from the northern Sool province. Additionally, the Somaliland region in the northwest has one government-operated radio station.
As of 2007, transmissions for two internationally-based broadcasters were also available.
The Mogadishu-based Somali National Television is the principal national public service broadcaster. On March 18th, 2011, the Ministry of Information of the Transitional Federal Government began experimental broadcasts of the new TV channel. After a 20 year hiatus, the station was shortly thereafter officially re-launched on April 4th, 2011. SNTV broadcasts 24 hours a day, and can be viewed both within Somalia and abroad via terrestrial and satellite platforms.
Additionally, Somalia has several private television networks, including Universal TV. Two such TV stations re-broadcast Al-Jazeera and CNN. SBC TV and ETN TV air from Bosaso, the commercial capital of Puntland. The Somaliland region also has one government-run TV channel.
In the early 2000s, print media in Somalia reached a peak in activity. Around 50 newspapers were published in Mogadishu alone during this period, including Qaran, Mogadishu Times, Sana'a, Shabelle Press, Ayaamaha, Mandeeq, Sky Sport, Goal, The Nation, Dalka, Panorama, Aayaha Nolosha, Codka Xuriyada and Xidigta Maanta. In 2003, as new free electronic media outlets started to proliferate, advertisers increasingly began switching over from print ads to radio and online commercials in order to reach more customers. A number of the broadsheets in circulation subsequently closed down operations, as they were no longer able to cover printing costs in the face of the electronic revolution. In 2012, the political Xog Doon and Xog Ogaal and Horyaal Sports were reportedly the last remaining newspapers printed in the capital. According to Issa Farah, a former editor with the Dalka broadsheet, newspaper publishing in Somalia is likely to experience a resurgence if the National Somali Printing Press is re-opened and the sector is given adequate public support.
As of 2012, Somalia has around 186 internet hosts. There were about 106,000 online users in the country in 2009.
.so is the internet country code top-level domain (ccTLD) for Somalia. After a long absence, the .so domain was officially relaunched on November 1, 2010 by .SO Registry. Regulated by the national Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, the new registrar operator offers several domain name spaces geared toward specific communities and interest groups:
- .so – General usage
- com.so – Commercial enterprises
- net.so – Networks
- org.so – Non-profit organizations
- Telecom Firms Thrive in Somalia Despite War, Shattered Economy – The Wall Street Journal
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- International Association of Money Transfer Networks
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- After 20 years, Somali president inaugurates national TV station
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- SO Registry