Somaliland is often described as a breakaway state, void of international recognition. But most parts of Somaliland—including Hargeisa—boast safe, democratic, and culturally compelling destinations for tourists and professionals alike. Situated on a more temperate plateau, Hargeisa was a cultural epicentre for Somalis until the 1970s, and an overdue revival of its historical and creative essence is being fuelled by the tens of thousands of Somalis returning from the diaspora to their homeland with ideas and capital to invest.
Around 250 million migrants currently live outside their countries of birth, making up approximately 3.5 percent of the world population. Despite the widespread perception of a global migration crisis, this ratio has stayed remarkably stable since the end of the Second World War and lags well behind other major metrics of globalization – international trade, capital flows, tourism etc. A more remarkable statistic is that refugees, at around 15 million, account for 6 percent of the migrant population and only 0.2 percent of world population. In other words, we can fit all refugees in the world in a city with an area of 5000 square kilometers – roughly the size of metropolitan Istanbul or London or Paris – and still have some space left over.
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.