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Shopping at night in Mogadishu comes to live, thanks to retail chain

MOGADISHU, March 5 (Xinhua) -- The thought and convenience of shopping at 10:00 p.m. in Somalia was until recently a distant dream to many shoppers in Mogadishu, but the emergence of the first of a kind supermarket is turning this dream into a reality.

In over two decades of political turmoil and war, Mogadishu was a ghost city where gunfire reigned day and night and life literally came to a halt at sunset.

But the tide is now changing; street lights and refurbished roads have given life to the once sleepy city.

Nabaad Supermarket, located in the heart of the city, is traversing a path many found it almost unimaginable a while ago.

It is the only convenience store in the city whose business model is capturing the attention of traders and consumers in the city.

"I decided to try something new in Mogadishu two years ago after studying the market and finding out that all traders were operating small shops and closing by six in the evening," said Ali Munin, the owner of Nabaad supermarket.

Munin said he imports most of his goods from China and United Arab Emirates and has managed to attract many customers some of whom prefer to shop at night after they are done with their day's activities.

With a starting capital of 200,000 U.S. dollars, Munin whose demeanor is suggestive of a happy businessman set up a self- service store to enable his clients to take time and choose what they want instead of quick enquiries at the counter.

"I realized that people buy more items when they can walk around the shelves unlike when they just stand at the entrance of the shop," Munin told Xinhua on Thursday.

Shoppers too have something positive to write home about Munin' s store. "Coming from Europe where I was used to big superstores with the choice of shopping at midnight, a small shop which closes at sunset sounded strange to me. But Nabaad is bringing me closer to Europe. I can still drive at 9: 00 p.m. and shop at my convenience, " Oman Hussein, a frequent customer to the store told Xinhua.

The remarkable improvement in security in Mogadishu and its environs has attracted notable investments in business and real estate as Somalis in diaspora troop back home to invest after many years of instability.

Liban Sagal, an economist and lecturer at Somali University attributes the boom in business to the ample investment space brought about by security experienced in the city.

"Since the ejection of the militant group Al-Shabaab from Mogadishu in 2012, investors have developed confidence and are now willing to put their money into business without the fear of being destroyed or taken over by militants," Sagal observed.

Sagal added that the resilience of some Somali business people over the time especially during the conflict is paying off.

"Most businesses are now breaking even after years of trial and fail. Those who were strong enough captured the market and are now able to sail through without much struggle," asserted Sagal.

Munin has six employees who operate on shifts from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and is confident of future expansion given the now friendly business environment and the increasing purchasing power among the locals.

Security concerns, however, cannot be ruled out in Mogadishu since the militant group Al-Shabaab has in the recent past launched attacks and assassinations in various parts of the city.

Even so, Munin said his resolve for more variety and choice for his customers is his overriding goal, never deterred by any attacks.

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