Mogadishu traders struggle for business in newly built Madina market

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(ERGO) – Small traders in the Somali capital Mogadishu are struggling to recover the losses they incurred when Wadajir district’s Madina market was destroyed by fire last December, after reopening their shops in a new stone building.

Ali Osman Ali sells body lotion, olive oil, cooking oil and black seed oil. He lost goods worth $2,500 in the fire and has bought new stock worth $300, half of it using a loan.

“I restocked these two shelves of my shop using some money I saved before losing my wealth to the fire. This shop used to be full and I earned good money for my family’s needs,” he said.

However, his earnings are down to around $5 from $30 a day as there seem to be fewer customers than before.

“The little I get from here is just enough for the family bills. The people I bought the goods from on credit in Bakara market are asking for their money daily, I keep telling them to wait.”

Ali lives with his family of six in one room offered by a relative as he was unable to pay the $100 monthly rent for the three-roomed house they rented before the fire. He worked in construction for five months but found the manual labour too hard.

Two of his children have dropped out of madrasa classes as he cannot pay the $10 fee.

There have been several blazes in Madina market over the past five years, as the clutter of shops along the roadside were built of wood and iron sheets so fire spread easily.

The district authority has installed a public water tap in the new facility designed and built by local company Najah. Traders have been urged to keep fire extinguishers in their shops.

Mohamed Ali Mohamoud, an architect with Najah, said the new stone building was far more resistant to fire.

“The danger of fire is now minimal. We created a road for vehicles so firefighters can access the market. The shops were blocking the way before,” he said.

Mohamed Haji Ahmed reopened his phone repair shop using $250 from a relative abroad. A father of four, he lost everything in the fire. Business is low and he is only making up to $2 a day.

“I didn’t manage to save any money as my earnings all went on paying the family bills,” he said.

“The five months I was out of work were the hardest period I have experienced in the 10 years I have been doing phone repairs.”