Accepted paper:

'We want to look just like other airports': Somaliland's Hargeisa Egal International Airport as a gateway to recognition


Tobias Gandrup (University of Antwerp)

Paper short abstract:

This paper analyses an airport rehabilitation project in the self-claimed Republic of Somaliland. Building on empirical research, the main argument is that the airport is a gateway to recognition illustrating that recognition is best understood in terms of degrees rather than as either there or not.

Paper long abstract:

Through an empirical investigation of a recent rehabilitation project of the self-claimed Republic of Somaliland's main airport, Hargeisa Egal International Airport (HEIA), this paper shows that the airport is used as a gateway to recognition. By actively deploying international standards of airport security, immigration control and runway reconstruction, HEIA is now connected to more international airports in the region. While Somaliland officially remains an internationally unrecognized state, the attempts to 'look like other airports', as the manager puts it, effectively enable Somaliland to become part of a larger aerial infrastructure that builds on internationally recognised standards. Based on these observations and ideas of 'degrees of statehood' (Clapham 1998) and 'degrees of legitimacy' (Caspersen 2015), I argue that recognition is not an on/off relationship. Rather, recognition should be analyzed in terms of degrees that can be sought in arenas outside formal government-to-government relations.

panel P001
Hubs, Gateways and Bottlenecks - New Transport Infrastructures and Urbanities Respacing Africa I