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.
Vocational training centers in Somalia are very few, but the demand for well-trained Somali youth, especially with hands-on experience, is increasing immensely as the country recovers from decades of unrest.
Establishing vocational training institutes would boost job opportunities for young Somalis.
The agriculture, livestock, and manufacturing sectors have also long been neglected; by now, these industries could have created more job opportunities for Somali youth. Although billions are channelled into Somalia for humanitarian purposes, a mere fraction of this dedicated to infrastructure projects could help young people train for technical positions.
Since 1991, remittances from the large diaspora and private enterprise have been lifelines for the millions of Somalis remaining in the country. However, these funds are often used for basic consumption, and have not proved a means used for investment.
Dairy—in camel milk
Agriculture and livestock are our main sectors, but the opportunities available to be formally trained for these sectors are scarce at best. Somalia is the world’s biggest producer of camel milk. However, the infrastructure needed to pasteurize the milk is absent, which is why over 90% of families in urban areas use imported powdered milk.
A similar irony is the fact that Somalia has the longest coastline in mainland Africa, yet its export of fish is marginal. Somalia is a major producer of bananas but, due to the lack of a supply-chain, we are not exporting enough.
As a home-grown, aspiring researcher, I observe the lack of access to credit is one of the main reasons why so few jobs are created. Young graduates with viable business ideas lack the networks and capital to realise their potential.
Increased access to finance and improving the supply-chain are the main job creation platforms for young people in Somalia. I would establish a microfinance body—managed by a group of Sharia-compliant investment experts who could evaluate the feasibility of business ideas and projects presented to them by Somali youth. Localizing investments would increase domestic revenue, act as an incentive for development actors to improve infrastructure, and continue to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit that has kept Somalia intact since the fall of the Siad Barre government in 1991.
Most of all, we need to look at socio-economic status, and put the very large number of young people we have at the center of development planning.