Saturday January 16, 2021
Somalia’s Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble on Wednesday rescinded a decision to dissolve the Somali Chamber of Commerce and Industry following complaints from traders.
At a press briefing in Mogadishu, Mr Roble said the organisation had not been disbanded as announced by the Trade Ministry in December.
“The Chamber has not been disbanded and we will recall the letter from the Ministry of Trade,” Roble told journalists in Mogadishu.
The relief followed a radical decision in December after Trade and Industry Minister Khalif Omar announced the organisation had been disbanded and a new caretaker team formed. Mr Omar claimed complaints from traders and “complications of commerce” had forced authorities to intervene.
The new caretaker team was to be led by Abdullahi Osman from the Hormuud Telecom’s Salaam Foundation.
Abdi Dorre, the Managing Director of the Somalia Chamber of Commerce, said they welcomed the prime minister’s decision as it gave them independence to manage the affairs of investors and traders.
“We are working closely with the government but it has no mandate to dissolve the chamber,” he said.
The organisation’s members were the source of most of the $250 million revenue collected by the Somalia government last year in taxes and other legal fees.
Minister Omar’s move last December came just a few days after a report by Mogadishu-based Hiraal Institute claimed al Shabaab was profiting from illegal taxation of business organisations who are also members of the Chamber of Commerce.
With more than 150 members, including business firms in logistics, medical care, agriculture, telecom and information technology as well as security services and import-export businesses, the Somali Chamber of Commerce and Industry serves as a collective and influential representative for the private sector in Somalia.
While its members are duty-bound to pay taxes to the government, Hiraal said the infiltration of Shabaabs meant some of their members had been forced to quietly pay extortion fees to Shabaabs.
Mr Dorre said the Chamber will cooperate with authorities to ensure legal activities among members, but said the organisation does not condone activities of illegal groupings.
In January 2020, the Benadir Chamber of Commerce, the affiliate in charge of Mogadishu metropolis, was dissolved after officials in government claimed its ranks had been infiltrated by Shabaabs. They were allowed back to work after satisfying operational audits.
In 2017, then Trade Minister Khadra Ahmed Duale dissolved the Chamber and ordered new elections. Duale was sacked in June 2018.
The Chamber said it would continue to run operations, including acting as a connecting point for local and international investors.
The Chamber’s members have, however, in the past also been victims of Shabaabs. In September last year, three people were killed outside a mosque in Kismayu in a suicide attack. They included a Jubaland Chamber of Commerce Chairman Shafi’i Rabi Kahin.