The year 2017 was momentous for Somalia, with the inauguration of a new president and parliament following a historic electoral process, and also the launch of a National Development Plan (2017–19). However, the peaceful transition of power was soon followed by the declaration of a “natural disaster” in the form of a prolonged drought that sparked fears of famine. By the end of 2017, 6.2 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance and over 1 million people internally displaced.
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.
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.
Mobile payments herald financial opportunity in Somalia. But for whom? And for how long? If Somalia’s telecommunications sector is the locomotive driving the economy, mobile money is the highway, transferring value and extending access to the economic playing field, nowadays at a rapid pace.
Over half of the 12 million people living in Somalia are acutely food insecure. This adds to the development challenge for Somalia after more than two decades of civil war and political instability. In particular, the urgent need for humanitarian assistance bears the risk of fostering aid dependency. To embark on a sustainable pathway toward development instead, intervention should rely on markets (whenever possible), and react dynamically to changes in market equilibria.
Therefore, we started to monitor 14 Somali markets and publish the data in near real-time using something similar to what we use for South Sudan, the innovative survey and analysis methodologies.