– That’s what I call a taxiway. It is made from the best and finest asphalt anyone has brought into Somalia.
Ali Ahmed smiles against the sun at the newly built airstrip in Baidoa, western Somalia. It was his company that modernized the airport. The house in Vinje where he and his family live has not-so-pretty airstrips.
– It’s about the same quality as the E134 from Oslo and Haugeli, he smiles slyly.
The airstrip is critical and is being built in a city that has suffered one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises in recent years. As the area around Baidoa is controlled by terrorists, emergency aid and assistance can only arrive by plane.
Ali was one of those who needed to change the definition of “House” Many times in life. He was a refugee from Somalia and is now a proud winemaker – that is, someone from Vinje in Telemark.
It is in Vinje where the children go to school, where he voluntarily contributes to the mosque, where he has worked for the municipality of Vinje for many years.
But Ali has left his municipal job and taken a small part of West-Telemark to the world. Because his company is named after him Vinje International.
– I like Vinje a lot and have received a lot of support from him. I have great respect for Vinje, so I named my company Vinje, says Ali.
and WinJ International It has already left its mark. Far from Vinje. Far from Vinje.
– I know people living here in Somalia and they need help. Along with what I learned in Norway, I want to use it to contribute.
– What did you learn in Norway?
– How I can help people, be kind and creative. I have created many workplaces and given employment to many youths, says Ali in his monotonous Nordstoga-like dialect, which has a distinct accent.
Many projects are being implemented
Because Ali has traveled to his second homeland, Somalia. Both are building airstrips — but all that needs to be done in a country whose growth has been stymied for years by mismanagement, corruption and radical Islamist groups.
– If I do a good job here, I will start projects in other regions as well. I do a lot here. Ali says the company operates roads, airports, logistics and services.
He has a clear accent in Norwegian, as do most people who learn Norwegian at a young age. But he stands out from other Norwegian Somalis with his new Norwegian od Nordstoga-like dialect.
He eats porridge for breakfast, goes skiing with the kids and doesn’t give thanks for a stick of meat and ribs for Christmas. Christmas is something Muslims have learned to celebrate. And he loves it.
But at the same time, Christmas is far away as he stands on an airstrip in a part of Somalia that hasn’t had proper rain in years.
A humanitarian crisis had long unfolded around him. People have no food to harvest in their fields. Also, radical Islamists in Al-Shabaab are active in the region.
– They don’t understand why I do it
They demand tax money from people in some areas and fight against Somalia’s government army in other areas.
– They don’t understand why I’m here, Ali says about his Norwegian-Somali friends in Norway.
– I was very good at WinJ, so they didn’t understand why I was taking the risk.
With a big smile, Ali likes to show off what he’s doing in Baidoa, western Somalia. He believes more people should do the same and invest in Somalia. Norwegian Somalis, but other Norwegians.
Ali has many plans. On the coast of Somalia, he began construction of a city that would be a hub for oil exploration outside of Somalia. He is also working on various military infrastructure projects in Niger, far from Somalia.
He is one of many Norwegian passport holders contributing to Somalia’s development. A good number of them send money south, but Ali also sends it himself.
The dream is to make money while contributing to development in a country so ravaged by war and corruption.
– More people should come back and contribute what they have. If more people like Ali return to Somalia, they can help a lot. That’s what I mean.
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