Mogadishu petrol station offers motorists alternative to jerry cans

By Abdi Moalim in Mogadishu

March 29, 2013

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Mogadishu motorists no longer need to rely solely on roadside vendors selling dirty petrol in jerry cans to fill up their cars, trucks and motorbikes.

  • SOPICO, which opened March 7th, is the first petrol station with pumps to operate in Mogadishu in 22 years. [Abdi Moalim/Sabahi]

    SOPICO, which opened March 7th, is the first petrol station with pumps to operate in Mogadishu in 22 years. [Abdi Moalim/Sabahi]

  • Vendors sell fuel from jerry cans in Mogadishu. [Abdi Moalim/Sabahi]

    Vendors sell fuel from jerry cans in Mogadishu. [Abdi Moalim/Sabahi]

For the first time in 22 years, motorists in the Somali capital can fuel up at a newly refurbished petrol station equipped with pumps dispensing high quality fuel.

The SOPICO station in Mogadishu's Hamarweyne neighbourhood opened on March 7th. It is the first of eight petrol stations now slated for revival. Pumps at these stations stopped working with the fall of the central government in 1991.

A second station, the Benadir Petroleum Company, will open soon in Mogadishu's Abdiaziz District after undergoing testing.

"The last time I filled my vehicle at a petrol station in Mogadishu was 22 years ago, before the collapse of the government," said Mohamed Addow Qalinle, 55, who queued up at SOPICO to fill up his vehicle. "Therefore, I am very happy today that I can access refined fuel."

Qalinle said the re-emergence of a functioning petrol station in Mogadishu is a "treasured victory", while bus driver Nuur Alasow Oorfane was so excited about the new petrol station that he likened it to being "as happy as when I got my first child".

"This is because we have suffered too much from contact with unrefined petrol," Oorfane told Sabahi, referring to the below-standard and often contaminated petrol sold in jerry cans by roadside vendors. At SOPICO, Oorfane pays $1.20 per litre -- the same price he used to pay for jerry can petrol.

Engine breakdowns and other problems caused by poor-grade petrol has been a long-time headache for Somali motorists like Dahir Warsame, who said he wants to see the roadside petrol hawkers pack up shop for good.

"The vendors [by the streets] do not store the fuel in clean containers while dust and other dirt find their way into the fuel," said Warsame, a mechanic and dealer of imported vehicles. "This kind of fuel destroys the vehicles' engines while unhealthy fumes are released into the air."

"All this leads to waste of resources. Motorists also waste a lot of time waiting for vendors to fill their vehicles with fuel using small containers," he told Sabahi. "All these challenges are addressed by the service stations retailing refined fuel."

Enterprising Somalis

For the new petrol stations, motorists can thank some enterprising Somalis who are testing the local business climate and taking advantage of improved security in Mogadishu and high demand for petrol.

Mohamed Omar, a trader who had lived in the Netherlands, has returned home to Somalia, where he now works as the manager at SOPICO.

"[The petrol station] is still in its initial stages and many people have yet to adapt to the availability of clean petrol," he said. "Besides that, we have received a lot of acceptance and high demand, and we strive to offer our customers petrol that meets internationally acclaimed fuel standards. This is an option many motorists never had before, and we offer other products and services that motorists may need."

The Somali government is providing licenses to investors who want to refurbish the petrol stations, which are located on state-owned land, and charging rent for the use of the property.

"The government does not own any shares in the business, therefore, this is a private enterprise," Omar said. "We also use privately owned warehouses that we use independently to store the fuel we import." Peace activist Halimo Ga'ayte, 35, said the resurgence of the city's petrol stations shows how far security in Mogadishu has improved.

"In the old days, investors used to invest their resources in foreign countries for fear of conflict [in Somalia], but if they trust their home country now, then that is victory and progress," Ga'ayte told Sabahi.

More petrol stations coming

To pump new life into the petrol stations' recovery, the Benadir regional administration has granted licences to eight entrepreneurs, administration spokesperson Mohamed Yusuf Osman told Sabahi.

In addition to the two petrol stations already in the city, Osman said six others "will be operational very soon".

"We do not charge the entrepreneurs any taxes at the moment as we have prioritised the availability of fuel," he said. "For that reason, we have permitted entrepreneurs to invest in the government-owned fuel service outlets."

Deeqa Hassan, a mother of eight who sells fuel at the KM 5 junction, said she was worried the new petrol stations will put her out of work and is now searching for a new source of income.

"The service stations are going to push us out of business because our customers will [eventually] shift to petrol stations retailing clean fuel," she said, urging the government to help street vendors transition to other business ventures.

Osman suggested that roadside fuel vendors pool their resources and obtain one of the licenses for opening a petrol station.

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Reader's Comments

  • سماح علي
    March 21, 2014 @ 10:41:42AM

    Since I discovered this website, I enjoy getting the latest news about Somalia.

  • Hassan
    August 23, 2013 @ 06:41:20AM

    Good news, bill gates lend me some dole to open a petrol station

  • Arays Habib
    April 5, 2013 @ 02:07:30PM

    It is really a thrilling issue to see quality big filling stations being opened in Mogadishu once again and this shows a return of peace to Somalia where no one could initially reserve enough oil due to security reasons.

  • Abdallah ausi
    March 30, 2013 @ 05:30:09AM

    They should sit down and discuss. They should stop tag of wars.

  • Mutava Thomas
    March 30, 2013 @ 05:20:31AM

    The fact that the Somali economy and political climate is this healthy is good news indeed and I personally laud the Somali people for the tremendous steps taken to improve their way of life since the ouster of the Shabaab. However the fate of street vendors who have previously although inefficiently been in control of this sector should not be ignored. The emergence of petrol stations means that the oil business ownership is now shifting into the hands of a few wealthy. The many small time vendors are now faced with the specter of joblessness. Money should be availed by the government on concessionary terms to ensure that the vendors can collectively own some of the stations.

  • RRobert Barasa
    March 30, 2013 @ 01:22:38AM

    The people of somalia indeed we the people of other nation wish you success in your endeavor to bring normality to your nation. You are a praying nation please pass this msg to your citizens every friday during prayers, God bless you.

  • Samsam
    March 29, 2013 @ 06:48:07PM

    Since I discovered your website I am really enjoying getting all the up to date news from Somalia, especially Mogadishu. Your news items are well written and interesting so keep up the good work.

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