'Business unusual' can still work


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I recently spent three days in Hargeisa, Somaliland. An eye-opening experience, as much as one that strengthens my conviction that World Bank Group is doing the right thing by engaging in this fragile country.

Somaliland is business unusual. Imagine among others, sitting in a mandatory security brief and specifying your blood type straight off the plane, going to meetings in armored cars, wearing the hijab  – a veil worn by Muslim women in the presence of adult males – scheduling meetings around prayers and the time of Iftar, the evening meal when Muslims end their daily fast during Ramadan.

The business environment in Somaliland is characterized by a fragile state, poor public service delivery, a weak legal and regulatory regime, inefficient and costly trade logistics, and a fragmented private sector with limited structured engagement with the government. Although the private sector accounts for more than 90 percent of GDP (an anomaly in Africa), it has poor access to finance and lacks an organized voice.

Meeting with the President of the Republic of Somaliland.
During my mission, I met with key Ministers, entrepreneurs and development partners and discussed the challenges and opportunities linked to the ongoing economic development agenda, notably the development of infrastructure and the energy sector. The exchanges highlighted how the World Bank Group's program in Somaliland is laying a foundation to create job opportunities and to accelerate the pace of economic development by fostering business reforms and SME engagement. In this light, the set-up of a high-level taskforce – reporting directly to the President – to implement Doing Business reforms compiled in a Doing Business memo, is a milestone and a strong sign of client buy-in. That is always crucial for the World Bank Group's programs to reach their objectives.  

Last, I participated in the presentation of the pilot Reform Champion Program, which aims to develop the capacity of government officials and some representatives of the private sector to implement key reforms that will address constraints to economic growth and development. The project is expected to help trained reform champions implement at least five reforms to improve government-to-business services by July 2016.

Hats off to our team in Somaliland: Catherine, Fred, Kalton, Laura, Patrick, Cemile, Svetlana, Michael, Dobromir, Jade, Suhail and Najeeb. They are writing the story of how the World Bank Group helps reduce poverty and promote shared prosperity – where it is most needed. And a very special word of thanks to Bella and Hugh, who support our work for the CMU. I witnessed first-hand the transformational nature of our work in fragile countries and the hard work of our teams.
There are signs of positive change in Somaliland, and World Bank Group programs are part of it.
Our portfolio in Somaliland includes:
The Somali Private Sector Development Re-Engagement Project Phase II (recently completed, except for a small port component) funded by DfID, DANIDA, and the World Bank's State and Peacebuilding Fund. It includes financial sector development; an investment climate reform program that supports the One-Stop-Shop and the rewriting of the Companies Act; value chain support in fisheries and gums and resins; Public Private Partnerships for the Berbera Port and solid waste management; and a $13 million matching grant program.
The $30 million Somali Core Economic Institutions and Opportunities, which be launched later this year, is a hybrid Bank and recipient-executed program funded by the Somalia Multi Partner Fund and co-led by the Trade and Competitiveness and the Finance and Markets Global Practices. SCORE covers financial sector development; an investment climate reform program; technical assistance for the port sector; a catalytic fund; and an MSME service center. It will cover Somaliland, Puntland and South Central Somalia.

The Somali Investment Climate Reform Program (SICRP), primarily funded by DANIDA and IFC. The program works to implement critical investment climate reforms and to build a robust policy dialogue in order to contribute to increased investments and economic growth.  SICRP supports the establishment of a structured dialogue platform around the business environment and the priority areas identified by investors.
Our work in Somaliland truly offers the opportunity to fully integrate World Bank and IFC programs and to strengthen collaboration with other Global Practices – namely, Energy and Transport. 

Engaging in a forum on capacity-building.


Cecile Fruman

Director, Regional Integration and Engagement, South Asia

Join the Conversation

Lawrence Mensah
June 30, 2015

Cecile in a hijab is a very strong statement on the efforts our teams shed on the ground to delivery WBG.

June 30, 2015

Thanks, Laurence. I saw wearing the headscarf as an important statement of respect for our clients, mostly during this holy month of Ramadan. Our teams are deeply respected by our counterparts thanks to their understanding of the local circumstances and flexibility in adapting. I have a huge amount of respect and admiration for our teams who work in FCS. It's not easy, but the rewards are tremendous.

Daniel H. Fruman
June 30, 2015

We, Cecile's parents are proud of her and her work at the World Bank.

July 01, 2015

You should be proud. As a Somalilander, I am very proud of the respect your daughter has displayed for our culture & hope she has had a good time in Somaliland. My home is an unrecognised country even though it has peace and several democratic elected Presidents (which is a rarity in Africa) & I hope Cecile understands the difficulties this can have on institutions as well as the high youth unemployment Somaliland is experiencing. I hope World Bank will further engage with my country, leading to better prospects for our youths who currently are fleeing for better lives in the West/Europe.

July 08, 2015

Thanks Jamal. The team and I are well aware of the challenges and difficulties that Somaliland faces. But I also witnessed the leadership, energy and hope that point to the many opportunities for the future! Wishing you all the best. Cecile

Angela johnson
July 01, 2015

Over the decades we have known each other you never cease to amaze me Cecile. Your empathy to other cultures and your leadership and expertise are outstanding. Proud to call you my friend.

July 08, 2015

Thanks Angela!

Haaji Ibrahim
July 03, 2015

For the decade of involvement, the World Bank has had in Somaliland, engaging both with private/public sectors, there is very little sustainable impact on the ground to show for. For the most part one can attribute this failure to a flaw delivery model, despite producing on paper well designed programs.
If the lessons learned from the previous initiative have been reflected upon and integrated into the new program, there is room for hope.

July 08, 2015

Dear Hajji. Thanks for your post. Despite a challenging environment, the World Bank Group has supported Somaliland to achieve significant results. For instance under the Somalia PSD Re-engagement Project (phase 2), the Somaliland Business Fund supported SME development, using a competitive approach where grant applications were evaluated in comparison with each other and awarded on merit. Over the course of 30 months and two competitive rounds, SBF received nearly 3,500 applications and committed a total grant amount of over US$11 million to 174 grantees.
As a result of these projects:
• Jobs: 1,901 new direct jobs had been created by March 2015; of which 690 were for women and 1,135 for young adults both male and female;
• Investment: US$16.2 million direct investment mobilized; total investment catalyzed is on average US$1.76 for each one dollar of grant; pre-project sales were US$9.2 million and specific project sales were $20.3 million, amounting to more than a 200% increase;
• Products: 481 new products were launched by 131 grantees, or an average of 3.7 products for each Grantee business. Of these, 82 were new products at the national level, i.e. they resulted in product and process innovation within Somaliland, which was well above the target set for the SBF;
• Exports: 22 grantees gained new international clients and secured break-though sales outside the country in 43 export destinations.
• Domestic Capacity: There was a significant improvement in the understanding of the business community of how to plan, develop, and implement businesses, including a boost to domestic business consultant capacity.
So there is a lot to proud of and many lessons that are being applied to the upcoming Catalytic Fund.

July 04, 2015

Thanks for your visiting somaliland I thing somalilanders are ready to well on any investment for it is more secure than recognized country

Mo Hussein
July 04, 2015

It was an absolute pleasure to have you here in Republic of Somaliland. We look forward to your next visit.

July 08, 2015

Many thanks Mo!

Madasha wadatashiga
July 04, 2015

Thanks Cecile. For your respect of local traditions

Fred Zake
August 07, 2015

Dear Cecile, we continue to see an improvement in client interest and dedication to the reform process and later this month, together with DFID, we shall take our 25 core reform champions for a weeklong dedicated training in Addis. We shall leverage the lessons from our sister Program and keep the reform momentum going. we shall share updates.

AbdiRashid Hussein
March 26, 2016

I think the world Bank has done tremendous achievements in Somalia and am absolutely delighted with the support to Trade Ministry and Somaliland Chamber of commerce.