I recently came across a word that aptly describes what I felt for years about those responsible for Kenya’s foreign policy on Somalia. Clueless!
In other words, they have been made in charge of foreign policy of a country that they are totally foreign to in terms of their grasp of its socio-economics and political policies.
Every hostile step that Kenya took against Somalia was slowly aiding Kenya to take herself out of business in Somalia.
One such step was its ill-advised reciprocal to shut down Kenya airspace to Somalia. This action was out of ignorance and foolishness after it was out of frustration with Farmaajo.
Ignorance because Somalia doesn’t have own airline industry. It’s domestic air transport — both passengers and cargo— as well as inter-country is operated by privately owned, Kenya-registered aviation companies.
And here is Kenya acting like Russia shutting its gas pipeline to Europe. Clueless Kenya failed to figure out that she doesn’t enjoy comparative advantage on aviation industry over countries in the region.
Foolishness, because Kenya’s actions was tantamount to cutting her nose to spite her face.
What Kenya’s flights ban would mean is it will cause temporary disruptions on the Somali side. But it could mean unplanned considerable loss of business to Kenya aviation companies. This action, which Somalia will likely interpret as a national security threat, could force her to reconsider dependence on Kenya.
In survivalist reaction Somalia may be forced to look North to Ethiopia and Djibouti to cover its air transportation needs before it develops its own local aviation industry. Soon Somalia airspace could be flooded with Ethiopian- registered Fokker 50s and other not-so-airworthy aircrafts.
The other paradox of Kenya being the butt of its own joke of flight ban is that the flight ban doesn’t stop international air travel between the two countries. Ethiopian will reap big as Mogadishu-bound passengers from Nairobi will be at their destinations twice a day via Addis.
Sample this for other instances where Kenya lost business to its business competitors:
Since 2019 when Kenya went overly aggressive with Somalia, Somalia started looking North with its government supported conference and humanitarian tourism. This caused some inconveniences to Kenya’s tourism, hotels and affiliated industries. Finding Kenya residence and business environment unstable, a number of Somali families and business relocated elsewhere in the region, mostly to Turkey but also to Egypt and Uganda.
This avoidable push to people with spending power which was as a result of bad policies could have offered a little bit of relief to Kenya’s economy in this difficult pandemic ara.
For almost two years Kenya Airways sold economy class tickets to Mogadishu for between USD 250 to 500 one way. One way business class tickets for between 500 to 750. KQ charged between USD 650-800 for its return economy ticks to New York. KQ ran itself out of business so quickly from Mogadishu route.
Mogadishu route has been the most profitable for Turkish for seven straight years from 2011-2018. The route still remains one of Turkish’s most competitive.
Ethiopian entered the Mogadishu route at the same time as KQ. Whereas KQ dropped out, ET has increased its daily flights to two from one, daily flights each to Garowe and Hargeisa as well.
Understanding Somalis better than Kenya does, Ethiopia rolled out “on arrival visa” for Somali passport holders. Somalis don’t complete local people or nationals of the countries in the region. They actually create jobs for the locals. It’s a cultural thing.
Otherwise, how do you explain plumbers, masons, porters, domestic workers, watchmen, quarry workers, hairdressers and other menial workers from all over Kenya to seek and find work in Somali counties in Kenya? Somalis don’t pose security problems either. They mostly transit south or northwards. The few that remain in Kenya help support the local economy in their own little ways— more than any other African immigrant group.
I gathered from people in the know that cross-county trend in term job creation is not common with other counties as it is for NEP counties. Of course, with the obvious exception of rich and urbanely cosmopolitan counties of Nairobi and Mombasa.
Kenya’s domination of Somalia air transportation business, conference tourism, was there because of deliberate Somali policy to trade with Kenya. With Somalia-Ethiopia relations restored, Kenya ought to be ever watchful over its policies toward Somalia.