Somalia: anarchy, calls

Somalia has not had a recognised government since 1991. Not totally surprisingly, the country has a vibrant and unregulated telecommunications sector. According to a BBC report from 2004 some of the highlights of the Somali market include
  • a three-day wait for installation of a landline;
  • US$10/month for unlimited local calls (VAT is irrelevant, one presumes);
  • 150Mbps Internet in central Mogadishu, 11Mbps wireless elsewhere.

All of this seems like science fiction to the hard-pressed South African consumer. In fact, National Geographic reports, earlier this year, that the waiting time for installation of a landline in the capital is now 8 hours. According to a World Bank report the number of landlines in Somalia had increased seven-fold in the period 1991 to 2002. Compare this to SA, where the number of landline subscribers has declined since 1995 in spite of an interventionist government, crocodile tears in Davos etc. Every African knows the immense entrepreneurial flair that pervades our continent but few Africans believe that we are blessed with particularly efficient or wise governments. Somalia shows how well things can work in Africa when entrepreneurs are in charge and not bureaucrats.