Somaliland touts oil and shared values as it offers Taiwan gateway into Africa

The visiting foreign minister of Somaliland has invited Taiwan to invest in his country’s oil and businesses, as the self-declared East African country resists pressure from Beijing over exchanging de facto embassies with the island.

Taiwan has been left with just one formal ally in Africa – the tiny landlocked Eswatini in the continent’s south. That follows years of diplomatic tussles with Beijing, which views self-ruled Taiwan as its territory and says it has no right to establish official relations with any country.

Eager to expand its links to Africa, Taipei in 2020 managed to open a representative office in Somaliland, which broke away from Somalia in 1991 and is not recognised internationally as a country.

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In a meeting with Tsai Ing-wen, the island’s president, in Taipei on Wednesday, Somaliland Foreign Minister Esse Kayd asked “giant companies” in Taiwan to invest and trade in Africa.

“It is a mutual benefit in which Taiwan increases its exports to Africa while Somaliland can increase job opportunities for its youth,” Kayd told Tsai at her office.

There were a number of investment and trade opportunities in Somaliland, said Kayd, who travelled to Taipei with Somaliland’s ministers of finance, development, and livestock and fisheries.

“In the mining sector, Somaliland has huge potential for foreign investment, including hydrocarbon deposits, oil and gas, as well as coal, which can be easily explored,” he said.

“We are encouraging maximising trade and investment potential rather than aid dependency.”

Calling his first visit to Taiwan “an important milestone of this strong and cordial relationship”, Kayd said Somaliland and Taiwan shared values such as a free market, respect for fundamental rights, open and transparent governance, and freedom of expression.

“We are champions of democracy in Africa and Asia,” he said, adding that Somaliland was a sovereign nation with a right to have international relations.

“All coercive or threatening measures to deny such collaboration between international partners not only represent an offence of principles, protocols and norms on which all international laws are based, but also do little to promote the peace and security that the region and the world require,” he said, referring to pressure from Beijing as it works to increase its influence in the Horn of Africa.

Somaliland’s 2020 agreement to exchange representative offices with Taiwan had drawn strong protests from Beijing, which has a military base in Djibouti, bordering Somaliland.

Tsai told Kayd that opening the representative offices had allowed the two sides to increase their cooperation and friendship.

“Somaliland is now an important location in East Africa for the implementation of Taiwan’s Africa project,” she said. “Taiwan and Somaliland have developed extensive cooperation in the fields of agriculture, fisheries, education and energy in recent years.”

The self-declared African state, which has set up representative offices in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates, Britain and the United States, is also seeking greater recognition from the US and like-minded countries to help it to counter Beijing’s influence.

Before their visit ends on Saturday, Kayd and his delegation plan to meet executives from Taiwan’s government-run oil firm CPC Corporation. Along with UK-based Genel Energy, Somaliland has signed an oil exploration development deal with CPC, via a public-private partnership in Somaliland.

The group is also expected to meet Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu, Economic Minister Wang Mei-hua and other senior government officials, as well as local business leaders.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2022 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2022. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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