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Friday, 25 August, 2000, 21:44 GMT 22:44 UK
Somalia thriving despite war and neglect
Streetscene in Somalia
Business is booming on Somalia's streets
By the BBC's Sunita Nahar

Somalia has been a lawless place for almost 10 years since its central government collapsed in 1991.

Warlords supported by heavily armed militias have ruled the areas under their control like personal fiefdoms.

So how has Somalia been coping - neglected by the world, especially in the past five years, and without a government?

Better than expected, it would appear. Behind a seemingly endless civil war and despite the destruction this has caused, business in Somalia is thriving.

It's not unusual to find restaurants and shops in towns once fiercely contested by the warlords crowded with people, workshops bustling with activity, and new buildings going up amid a jungle of ruins and rubble.

Flair for business

The Somalis have always been great traders. They have a flair for business and it's visible on the streets.

Trucks carrying goods with only token protection move throughout the country.

Somali militiaman
Many Somalis would like to see an end to factional violence
Fruit from the far south is sold in the far north west and smuggled electrical goods even land on the Gulf of Aden.

Local companies provide electricity and telephone services, and Somalia also has its own private television and radio stations.

Economists say the average Somali is probably no worse off than the average Tanzanian and Zambian.

Businessmen may even have benefited from the power vacuum, working with local communities to help restore law and order in some areas.

But clearly people are still poor and would like to see a government that is recognised internationally and works on their behalf.

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