Somaliland blessed by dodging aid 'curse': minister

CAPE TOWN Tue Feb 4, 2014 12:05pm EST

Residents of Somaliland sit under a war memorial of a MiG fighter jet in the centre of town in Hargeisa May 19, 2013. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

Residents of Somaliland sit under a war memorial of a MiG fighter jet in the centre of town in Hargeisa May 19, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Feisal Omar

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CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - The breakaway territory of Somaliland cannot access foreign aid because it has not yet been recognized internationally as a state, and that suits it just fine.

"That is a blessing in disguise. Aid never developed anything," Hussein Abdi Dualeh, Somaliland's minister of energy and minerals, told Reuters on the sidelines of an African mining conference.

"Aid is not a panacea, we'd rather not have it ... How many African countries do you know that developed because of a lot of aid? It's a curse. The ones that get the most aid are the ones with the problems," he said.

Dualeh is in Cape Town trying to woo junior mining companies to come and explore for minerals in Somaliland, which Dualeh described as Africa's "land mining frontier. Almost completely unexplored".

That might be a hard sell as even raising capital can be difficult for projects in a state that is not recognized internationally but Dualeh said Somaliland, which broke away from Somalia in 1991, showed that an African country could fend for itself with no outside help.

Somaliland has enjoyed relative stability compared with the rest of Somalia, which has been racked by decades of civil war, and has held a series of peaceful elections.

"We've been left to our own devices. We are our own people and our own guys. We pull ourselves up by our own boot straps," said the U.S.-educated minister who speaks English with an American accent.

He also said that while the country could not access international capital markets it also had no debt as a result, adding to its narrative of self-reliance.

"We owe absolutely nothing to anybody. We would not change hands with Greece today. We have zero debt," he said.

He said the country's national budget was around $250 million, funded completely by its own resources.

Its economy is largely based on selling livestock - goats and cattle - to Arab countries, while it also relies heavily on the remittances of its diaspora community.

"Remittances from overseas prop up the economy to the tune of about a billion dollars a year," Dualeh said.

(Editing by Alison Williams)

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