Spotlight on African markets Part 3: Somalia & Libya

Which African economies are set to transform over the next five years? Capacity asked leading experts to name their telecoms markets to watch.

Ongoing conflict in some African nations has not necessarily deterred interest in their telecoms markets.

Despite having no central government since 1991, Somalia’s geographical significance is attracting interest from the international carrier community.

The self-declared state of Somaliland has in fact gone about quietly building a thriving telecoms market: “There are multiple mobile operators in Somalialand serving conflict and non-conflict areas,” says Melick. “At the moment they are focussed more on mobile, but over the next couple of years, we are going to see the implementation of broadband and IP services.”

Melick strongly tips Somaliland to emerge as a gateway to other markets, complementing Djibouti as a strategic access point for East Africa. “We are starting to see an emerging level of interest for service providers in Somalia. The regulatory environment in Somaliland has been increasingly favourable to cross border connectivity. I do know of projects in advanced level of discussion, which will most likely see deployment in the next couple of years,” he says.

The second civil war in Libya has put investment in networks and infrastructure indefinitely on hold, but telecoms looks to be high on the agenda for any future Libyan government. 

Following the 2012 elections, the General National Congress identified telecoms as a key industry for driving economic growth, attracting strong interest from a number of leading international operators. The government at the time planned to invest as much as $10 billion by 2020 in improving telecoms infrastructure, much of which had previously been destroyed in the first civil war.

During that period DLA Piper’s Conradi was in Tripoli helping to establish a telecoms regulator and put together a new regulatory framework. He believes that when the security situation allows, there is a “brilliant opportunity” to build a whole new telecoms market to much higher standards.

“They need a new telecoms law and regulatory infrastructure, which was very high up on the priority list of the interim government and I suspect it will be again,” he says. “It could happen within a year of establishing a unified government.”


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