DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Next, we're going to hear about why Somaliland is attracting investors. Internationally, it's recognized as part of Somalia - synonymous with failed state, pirates, Islamist militants. But Somaliland in the nation's northwest is a peaceful enclave that broke away from the fractious Horn of Africa nation in 1991.
Reporter Benno Muchler reports from Somaliland's capital, on the biggest private investment there to date.
(SOUNDBITE OF DRIVING)
MOUSTAPHA GUELLE: That small mountain over there, you can see a white structure.
BENNO MUCHLER, BYLINE: Uh-huh.
GUELLE: That's the Coke plant.
MUCHLER: Moustapha Guelle drives his silver Land Cruiser along a dirt road he has taken many times in the months before. Here in the desert, some 20 miles outside of the capital Hargeisa, Guelle and his four brothers have built Somaliland's biggest investment project so far: a brand new $17 million Coca-Cola bottling factory. Its green yard, worker cottages and state-of-the-art water treatment plant seem a mirage in this country of sand and stone.
Nearby, camels eat the treetops of pale, brown acacias. A ragged nomad drives his black-headed sheep with a stick.
(SOUNDBITE OF NOISE)
MUCHLER: Guelle stops his car at a pond in front of the site.
GUELLE: So we've created this lake as a reservoir for the treated water that flows from the Coke plant, so it comes into here and additional rainwater.
GUELLE: This water...
MUCHLER: You use the water. Yeah.
GUELLE: So, and so this water now has become a vital watering point for the gazelles and the wildlife out here.
MUCHLER: When the pond grows into a lake and lures enough wildlife, the Guelle brothers, who own Somaliland Beverage Industry, will open a game park for tourists, complete with lodges and safari tours. Entrepreneurial spirit has made the brothers some of the most successful businesspeople in Somaliland.
The Coca Cola factory employs 57 workers and produces 11,000 bottles an hour for more than 120 clients.
(SOUNDBITE OF MACHINERY)
GAVIN DEHNING: When you hear that noise, it's pumping syrup into the syrup tank from, from the, from the tank.
MUCHLER: Managing director Gavin Dehning explains the process while green, half-liter, Sprite bottles get filled, packed and labeled at high speed behind him on the production line.
The Guelle brothers brought the South African on board because he had successfully built other Coke plants throughout Africa. First, Dehning was skeptical. Doing business in Somaliland is difficult.
DEHNING: Somaliland is treated the same way as Somalia. It's not recognized, it has no banking system, it has no formal structures or infrastructure. So, that poses enormous challenges to put up a factory of this nature with all the, the first-world standards that are required by the Coca-Cola system.
MUCHLER: Getting the franchise from Coca-Cola? No problem. Getting the machines in one piece from Europe to the site in the desert over Somaliland's unpaved roads? A quest.
And then there is the lack of skilled labor. Dehning says Kenyans from the Coke plant in Nairobi trained the Somalilanders on the line over a period of six months. But he says Somaliland offers huge potential.
DEHNING: Because there is nobody else playing in this playground. And with nobody else playing in this playground, it really becomes a, an open market for any potential investor who - in the next five to 10 years - will be able to come in, set up their business and really gain tremendous market share and literally win over the market.
MUCHLER: Just recently, Google came and visited the biggest of Somaliland's six telecommunications companies. China plans to invest in the fisheries off Somaliland's more than 500 miles of coastline. And at the conference on Somalia in February, Western countries agreed on an investment fund.
Moustapha Guelle is optimistic.
GUELLE: And even if it means not being recognized for another 200 years, it's not really a problem. We've survived for 20 years without a single government recognizing us and people are doing OK.
MUCHLER: He says it's not easy, but Somalilanders have learned how to survive.
For NPR News, I'm Benno Muchler.