MOGADISHU, April 20 (Xinhua) -- Somalia is keen to strengthen bilateral ties with China in order to hasten the country's reconstruction after decades of civil strife, a Somali minister has said.
State Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Abdulkadir Ahmedkheyr Abdi said Beijing has for decades lent a helping hand to the Horn of Africa nation with projects including Benadir Hospital, the National Theatre and the Mogadishu Stadium.
"Somalia is the first East African country to establish diplomatic ties with China," the minister told Xinhua in a recent interview.
He lauded China for standing with Somalia through a tumultuous journey marked by civil war, terrorism and natural calamities since the two countries established diplomatic relationship in 1960.
On his part, Qin Jian, the new Chinese Ambassador to Somalia, said Beijing was committed to helping Somalia reconstruct its economic and political pillars destroyed during the civil war.
Qin noted that reopening of Chinese Embassy in Mogadishu after closure occasioned by the civil war had reaffirmed the resilience of Sino-Somalia ties. "That is a demonstration to China-Somalia brotherhood," the envoy added.
Abdulkadir said China has supported humanitarian interventions in the Horn of African state that is currently grappling with a severe drought.
"For many years, China has always been a donor to Somalia," Abdulkadir said, adding that Beijing has pledged 10 million dollars to support drought victims and an additional 5 million dollars to be channeled through the Kenyan government to support repatriation of Somalia refugees.
The foreign minister said the Somali government has created a conducive environment to attract Chinese investors.
"With improved security we hope Chinese companies will invest in Somalia and be part of our reconstruction," said Abdulkadir. He added that China could be a formidable market for Somalia's agricultural products.
"We look forward to reviving our export potential especially in agricultural produce like bananas. Somalia used to be the biggest banana exporter in Africa before the civil war. Our bananas are of high quality," said Abdulkadir.
He also noted that Somalia has an expansive coastline with pristine beaches that could be an ideal destination for Chinese tourists.
"I hope the Chinese tourists will come to Somalia once security improves," said Abdulkadir. He said academic and cultural exchanges between China and Somalia will strengthen bonds of friendship while unleashing mutual benefits.
"Over 1,400 Somalia students have studied in China and some of them can speak fluent Chinese ... With more people-to-people exchanges, Somalia and China can further strengthen cooperation and friendship," he said.