During my years in college, the number of unemployed graduates in my city made me want to study harder, and seek the skills required in the workplace while I was still a student. Luckily, in my fourth year, I began volunteering for a local NGO. That volunteerism really scaled up my skills and later helped me get a fulltime job.
The general lack of vocational training and a still-nascent volunteerism culture remain the main reasons why the majority of Somali youth are unemployed. We can boost youth employment opportunities by not only building up their skills, but also by encouraging volunteerism as a pathway to employment.
When the central government of Somalia collapsed in 1991, everything collapsed with it. Infrastructure was destroyed. Basic services, such as electricity and clean water, were no longer provided. Government institutions were looted. As a result, the economy disintegrated and the Somali people’s contract with the State became void. In the following years, the civil war and recurrent droughts forced many people to migrate or join extremist groups.
In recent years, however, the situation has gradually changed for the better. Government institutions are slowly recovering and becoming stronger, people are enjoying relative peace, and the economy is being revitalized by capital from the diaspora. Nonetheless, many challenges remain, including the most chronic one: youth unemployment.
How can we create job opportunities for the youth? One possible solution is establishing Small Production Businesses (SPB) in the country.
Joblessness among young Somali adults is a chronic issue confronting Somalia. Their unemployment rate is at staggering 67%. And the issue of youth joblessness is exacerbated by the large number of Somali students who graduate—from secondary schools and from tertiary organizations—with skills that are neither appropriate for Somalia nor competitive elsewhere.
Nonetheless, this aside, after almost three decades of turmoil—and of protracted conflict, terrorism, and piracy—Somalia is making huge entrepreneurial, socioeconomic, and political strides. This progress is encapsulated in a famous hashtag, popularized in 2017 and known as “#SomaliaRising.” In keeping with the spirit and momentum of this, we turned “Rising” into “iRise”—to demonstrate both how Somalis can improve narrative, and bring our innovative and entrepreneurship ingenuity into play.
Our brand name is a catalyst for this hashtag and aims to popularize the movement.
The dramatic decrease in the cost of renewable energy technologies seen in recent years presents an unprecedented opportunity to improve our access to energy—and create employment in the process. This is especially true in Somaliland, where more than 80% of the local population of 3.5 million does not have access to modern electricity.
Somaliland’s small economy cannot afford large investments in the infrastructure needed for generating energy in the more traditional, 20th century sense. Running electricity lines over long distances to reach a geographically dispersed, off-grid population is simply uneconomical. Moreover, at US$0.85 per kilowatt, the cost of electricity in Somaliland is among the highest in the world.
Reform communications explains and promotes reforms to all concerned audiences, and ensures consistency, balance, and participation, all the way from a reform’s design to its implementation. It can also make sure that audiences understand the reform, contribute to stakeholder inclusion, and hold the owners of the reform accountable.
What does that mean in a country like Somalia? More importantly, what does that mean for a country like Somalia right now?
One year ago, we did not know how many Somalis were poor and how programs and policies could help to reduce poverty or at least build resilience against falling deeper into poverty. We knew that Somalis receive an estimated $1.4 billion (24 percent of GDP) in remittances every year. But we did not know whether the poor received the remittances and whether they helped mitigate the impact of poverty. To overcome this dearth of information, we implemented the Somali High Frequency Survey and established a near real-time market price monitoring system.
I have been working on assessing social protection mechanisms in Somalia for more than a year now. In 2011, some 260,000 people died from famine. Given that 51.8 percentage of the population is poor with average daily consumption below $1.9 and 9 percent are internally displaced, it is only fair to despair over Somalia’s development, or lack thereof.
The negative impacts of the drought don’t stop at the risk of famine: More than 680,000 people have been displaced from rural areas in the past six months. Approximately 1.4 million children will need treatment for acute malnutrition. The scarcity of safe drinking water has led to an outbreak of acute watery diarrhea (AWD) and cholera in 13 out of 18 regions, resulting in 618 fatalities since January 2017, according to UNOCHA.
[Read report: Forcibly Displaced: Toward a Development Approach Supporting Refugees, the Internally Displaced, and Their Hosts]
So what is being done to help the people in Somalia cope with this crisis? Today, World Bank projects in the poorest countries contain a mechanism to redirect funds for immediate response and recovery. IDA’s “Crisis Response Window” provides additional resources to help countries respond to severe economic stress, major natural disasters, public health emergencies, and epidemics.
In May 2017, the Bank approved a US$50 million emergency project – Somalia Emergency Drought Response and Recovery Project (SEDRP) – to scale up the drought response and recovery effort in Somalia. Supported by funding and technical assistance from the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), the project aims to address, in the immediate term, the drought and food crisis, and also to finance activities that would promote resilient and sustainable drought recovery.
In the video, World Bank Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez (@Ede_WBG) and SEDRP’s project leader Ayaz Parvez discuss in detail how the World Bank and its partners are working to help communities in Somalia build up their resilience in the face of the food and drought crisis.
The president of the Somali Chamber of Commerce, Mohamoud Abdi Ali, joins with the country's Minister of Commerce and Industry, Khadra Ahmed Dualle, at the IFC-sponsored Public-Private Dialogue at the Somalia Conference, which was convened in London in May 2017. The need to increase revenue, growth and trust led to the creation of the Public-Private Dialogue. Photo credit: MPF.
Stabilizing countries that have long been afflicted by fragility, conflict and violence (FCV) – and helping them shape effective reforms to strengthen the investment climate – is one of the most difficult challenges in international development. The task is all the more severe when, as in Somalia, a large proportion of the population has been displaced by violence and natural disaster and when the economy is overly concentrated on a few sectors. Such factors make rebuilding investor confidence a daunting challenge for the newly elected government.
However, despite these challenges, Somalia represents a rare example of private-sector resilience. The major sectors of the economy survived the tumultuous period after the collapse of the state in 1991. Entrepreneurs in Somalia and abroad continue to innovate and adapt in a country void of regulatory frameworks or government oversight. Domestic mobile-money transfers average $1.2 billion in monthly transactions, and mobile money usage is above 70 percent.
Nonetheless, economic growth in Somalia has stagnated and has not resulted in a peace dividend for the population. Government revenue is low – around 2.5 percent of GDP – in an economy driven by consumption, as identified in the World Bank Group’s Somali Economic Update (SEU) from 2016. According to the SEU, two of the biggest obstacles to equitable growth are access to finance and lack of regulations. Moreover, investment in priority sectors is low, held back by protectionism, conflict and instability.
Somalia was the focus of an international conference in May 2017 in London that brought together some of Somalia’s top private-sector firms, development institutions and government leaders to discuss how to jump-start private-sector-led growth and achieve long-term peace and development. Among the distinguished attendees were the newly elected president of Somalia, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmaajo”; Prime Minister Teresa May of the United Kingdom; United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres; and the European Union’s foreign-policy chief, Federica Mogherini. The World Bank Group delegation was led by Jan Walliser, the Vice President for Equitable Growth, Finance and Institutions.
Editor's note: This is a guest blog by Jonathan Starr, founder of Abaarso School of Science and Technology, and the author of “It Takes A School.”
60 Minutes, The New York Times, MSNBC, BBC, and CNN are just some of the media outlets that have covered the story of Abaarso School in Somaliland. Abaarso is also the subject of a recently released book, It Takes A School, and an upcoming documentary, Somaliland, The Abaarso Story. All this attention is the result of Abaarso’s extraordinary success, despite conventional wisdom believing Abaarso’s results were impossible anywhere, never mind in the unrecognized breakaway country of Somaliland. Given Abaarso’s achievements and modest price tag, its approach is worth a deeper dive for lessons that can be applied elsewhere.