Diaspora opportunities in Horn of Africa
Photo courtesy of Albany Associates
As the first part of its series looking at the impact of worldwide diasporas, PathfinderBuzz examines the impact that dispersed former Somalis have had on the country of Somalia and the semi-autonomous region of Somaliland.
The Somali civil war caused an exodus of people from the region. But returning stability coupled with increasing wealth from natural resources has brought some back.
Returning diaspora are bringing seed money for new ventures, skills and expertise picked up from other business climates, and an appetite to do things in a better way.
But is it enough? What is the best way to connect the diaspora back to its homeland? And would Somalia and Somaliland have been better off had more people stayed through the war and attempted to rebuild?
The Somali diaspora has demonstrated a growing business involvement with its country of origin. Whether this means returning home to set up an enterprise or providing funding or other forms of help from afar, more and more Somalis are connecting with Somalia and Somaliland.
For example Guul Group, a multi-sector Somali business, has partnered with Pontus Marine, a Somali fishing firm, to raise £3m ($5m) in funds for investing in the skills and capabilities necessary to expand commercial fishing in Somali waters and create a seafood export industry.
To raise these funds, they have turned to the extensive diaspora, says Mahamed Liban, chief executive officer (CEO) of the Guul Group. It shows how the diaspora can work with its home country to create wealth and opportunity for both the investor and the home community.
“Business is the way forward for Somaliland and the rest of Somalia, in order for it to be stable,” says Liban. “There are more people in Somalia so that means there are more opportunities there, but it is more stable up north in Somaliland.”
As opportunities emerge on the Horn of Africa, many of the diaspora are finding the going more difficult in their new adopted lands. Increased restrictions on visas and passports mean some cannot have family join them while others have no option but to return home. Meanwhile the continuing global economic slowdown coupled with further regulations oninternet money transfers are limiting the remittances they can send back.
The timing is right for many members of the diaspora to come back and invest in person, says Anna Bowden, associate director at One Earth Future Foundation, a non-profit organisation dedicated to eliminating conflict through economic opportunity.
Businesspeople are coming back, setting up businesses and either staying to run them or returning to their new countries to run them remotely. ”They’re not scared about the instability. They know there’s great opportunity on the ground,” she adds. “It’s one of the most exciting pieces of the puzzle.”
But diaspora returning home must be careful about where and what they invest in. Significant research is required, especially considering the speed of change. “People go in without knowing what’s out there. They see TV or hear friends and family have done it,” says Liban. “I know people who have taken their family with them before doing any research and ended up losing a lot of money.”
It also does not mean that all of Somalia or Somaliland’s problems have been solved and the area is now a shining beacons beckoning home prodigal sons after 10-20 years away. “There are many challenges,” says Liban. “It took me two years of going back and forth to get set up, it’s not something that happens overnight and any investor will require patience.”
Diaspora without money or the patience to invest directly are still getting involved in the opportunities that the country could provide. Growth and change is leading to greater demand for a variety of skills. “Everything from engineers to MBAs are needed,” says Bowden.
But despite the opportunities returning diaspora are creating in the region, it also must be acknowledge that their departure has hurt growth. Braindrain has hit the country hard, adds Liban. In many ways, it would have been better for many to stay, he says. “They’ve not made any difference coming, either for themselves or the people they leave behind.”
Remittance has also been something of a problem. “It’s become a major part of the Somali economy and personally I do not agree,” he says. “It’s created a dependency on diaspora and people abroad, an expectation of money at the end of the month. Instead they should have been encouraging people to set up businesses, be creative and create new business opportunities themselves.”
No matter how much quicker the pace may have been if more people had stayed at home, progress is being made throughout the Horn of Africa. As the port of Berbera announceslong-sought after investment, interest from the diaspora and other businesses will continue.
Next steps and more information
|LONDON (Somalilandsun) – Guul Group a UK and Somaliland registered company has been recognized as the 2013 achiever in the business category by the West London Somaliland Community-WLSC.
The 5th Somaliland Community Achievement business category for 2013 was presented to the Guul Group Chief Executive officer Mr. Mohamed Guleid at a colourful and high profile event hosted by WLSC at Brunel University in London
Speaking to Somalilandsun after the receiving the award the youthful Guul Group CEO said,
“I was absolutely delighted to have received this award as part of an important ceremony in which many had been recognized for individual accomplishments and contributions to the Somaliland community globally”
As their CEO received the business category achiever award for 2013, his team in Hargeisa who thanks to modern technology were following events live through Skype failed to hide their exuberance and visibly over the moon for the consideration and recognition of their company’s work not only in 2013 but way back since inception in London especially taking into account the number of knock-backs, barriers, challenges, set-backs; the biggest been that Guul Group is run by a young team.
Back in London the Guul Group chief honcho who was himself basking in glory for the recognition which comes a short while after managing to spearhead the public issue of Pontus Marine Ltd shares worth $5m which was and remains the first of its nature in Somaliland at the very short span of less than four months.
According to Mr. Guleid the entire process of the Pontus Marine ltd share issue, novel in Somaliland, the main query of each and sundry was ‘how can you possibly raise $5m when you are this young, you don’t have a beard or big belly’
Said he, This and similar remarks went a long way in creating a defying and determined team of youngsters from the Diaspora and inside Somaliland intent on success thence become a role model for others”
While thanking the WLSC for its recognition of these efforts amid insurmountable hurdles Mohamed Guleid said the Guul Group achievement could not have been realized without the dedication and commitment of a number of team players among them Hassan Ahmed , Daud Ibrahim Haruun Baby Guul and d Kayse Mohamed
“My greatest appreciation is to the Pontus Marine Ltd team that showed confidence in the youth led Guul Group and gave us the contract to spearhead its unique public share issue in Somaliland” said Guleid who also acknowledged Yusuf M Hasan and his Somalilandsun team for helping Guul Group then UK based only find its footing in Somaliland
The youthful Guul Group CEO who is expecting his first child any time now also recognized his mother and spouse for believing in his dream of shifting base from the UK to Somaliland that resulted in them supporting and standing beside him during a turbulent time in Hargeisa whilst setting up.
Envisaging 2014 to be an even better year for his fledgling youth led and managed company the Guul Group founder and CEO who emphasized the importance of supporting and encouraging the youth of Somaliland said “it’s imperative that we give the youth a chance, promote entrepreneurship, create platforms in which our youth can come together, generate ideas, share ideas, craft businesses with support, guidance as well as investments. Our youth need to be nurtured and pressed forward to take risks and not conformed to status quo.
High profile guests such as the Mayor and the Mayoress of the London Borough of Hillingdon Councilor Markham and Mrs. Markham, the Minister of Investment and Commerce of the Republic of Somaliland H.E. Dr Mohamed Abdilahi Omar, the Head of the Somaliland Mission in UK Ambassador Ali Aden Awale, Councilors, traditional leaders and representative from a wide range of organisations were present at the ceremony.
As per his business inspiration Mohamed Guleid says it emanates from a report by a university lecturer from Chicago US, which read ‘Somali people are born entrepreneurs’ which he agrees with 100% saying “we Somalilanders are all over the world initiating ideas, businesses and investing; logistical companies, hotel chains, mining as far as Angola thus competing in a vast region like the Horn of Africa through innovation, ideas, leadership and drive”.
Urging the youth not to be cowed by remarks about age, inexperience or lack of beards or big bellies the Guul Group chief gave gthe example of the 12 years old. Hanad Ali, a 12 year old who has already published his first book published now available on Amazon and Water Stones and Mohamed Haruun who has graduated considering his inability to see making him one of the most deserving of the awards tonight.
On being awarded by the WLSC Mr. Haruun said ‘Anything is possible, I want to achieve more and I can’.
For 2014 Mr. Guleid had set a challenge for all Somalilanders to sit down and actually write some goals, number 1 may be “turning up on time so that the next award ceremony could start on time”
The West London Somaliland Community based in the UK whose mission is to empower Somalilanders in West London to enable them to participate meaningfully in the society as confident citizens which is presenting the Somaliland Achievement awards in various categories for the fifth year running.