- In the past six months, a number of new taxi companies have begun operating in Hargeisa, creating well paying jobs and providing a much demanded service. Former officer of urban planning in Hargeisa's municipality, Mohamed Ismail, said that between June and November, four taxi companies opened in Hargeisa: Raho City Taxi, Hargeisa Taxi, Dalhis Taxi and Marodi Jeh Taxi.
"[These companies] were founded by local businessmen and individuals from Somaliland who have moved back from abroad," said Ismail, who now works for the city's social affairs department. The fact that people are organising themselves into companies that serve the public is a sign of progress, Ismail told Sabahi, adding that the government welcomes these developments.
"In particular, we are calling on the diaspora community to return to their country so we can benefit from their new ideas and knowledge," he said.
Abdikarim Salah Mohamud, who was a taxi driver in Melbourne, Australia for 25 years, returned to Somaliland this year and founded Hargeisa Taxi company in July.
"I was inspired to form Hargeisa Taxi company when I saw the great need for quality taxi cabs for people in Somaliland," he told Sabahi. "I was also encouraged by how foreigners are flocking to Somaliland. Hargeisa Taxi provides a service similar to the one they get in their countries."
Mohamud said he researched the business for a year and a half before launching it, during which time he visited Hargeisa 13 times.
His company offers its services 24 hours a day to customers in all parts of the city. The taxis have distinct signs and colours for easy identification, the drivers wear uniforms, and telephone numbers to dispatch taxis are visibly displayed on the company's vehicles, Mohamud said.
This month, Hargeisa Taxi started taking customers between all major cities in Somaliland at scheduled times, he said.
Launching taxicab companies creates long-term job opportunities with the potential to earn good money, said Mustafa Mohamed Yusuf, a driver for Raho City Taxi company.
"In any neighbourhood, any person I carry who needs to go to the market or a place of work and back home, I charge 18,000 Somaliland shillings ($3)," he said. "I make $50-$150 daily. I am happy with this job," Yusuf told Sabahi.
Each driver pays $26 to the company daily, keeping the remainder of the daily proceeds as personal take-home pay, Yusuf said, adding that the company currently employs 60 drivers.
Raho City Taxi, which was the first company to begin operating in the region, has a fleet of about 40 vehicles including small compact cars and vans that can carry seven passengers.
New ways to ensure safety
Hargeisa Taxi has a fleet of about 30 vehicles including four passenger sedans and seven passenger minivans equipped with GPS, according to Mohamud.
He said the GPS, which was installed by Sahal Technology company, enables the dispatch office to monitor the car, whether it is travelling above the speed limit or if it is stolen.
"You do not need to travel with special security because we are able to disable a car via the internet...our cars cannot even be hijacked," Mohamud said.
Hargeisa Taxi recently signed contracts with various agencies such as Care International and UN Habitat to transport their employees.
The availability of taxi services is part of the developing economy and expansion of urban development, said Muna Hassan, who works for the Somaliland Women in Journalism Association
"In the past six months, I have not missed the time I used to spend on public buses to go to work," she told Sabahi. "To avoid being late for work, [now] I call one of the Raho City taxis. Each time I pay about 15,000 shillings ($2)."
Sahra Haji Osman, who lives in Masalaha neighbourhood near the Hargeisa airport, said she has regularly used the increasingly available taxis since August to travel to Edna Maternity Hospital, which is about 9 kilometres from her house.
"Since I am a pregnant mother, I go to the hospital at least once a month to monitor my condition and the baby's," said Osman, mother of three. "These affordable taxis have enabled me to save the time I wasted by using a bus or renting one of the previous taxis."
By Barkhad Dahir in Hargeisa/ Sabahi