by Ali Osman
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Somalia’s long civil war has decimated the wealth, production infrastructure, government institutions and economy. In developing countries many of the new graduates find their first jobs at the state sector but in Somalia there are no state sectors that can hire new graduates. In fact, most of the government ministries have not paid their current employees’ salaries for almost six months let alone hire new ones.
The private sector is still fragile and cannot absorb high number of new graduates and even if that was possible, there is the usual nepotistic mindset of hiring family members rather than qualified young candidates.
The entrepreneur minded graduates face the inevitable fact of not having a bank loan, investment houses and crowdsource funding that are ubiquitous in more stable countries. Furthermore, electricity, internet and transportations are unavailable or expensive. Market access and local buying power are weak because of the lack of viable employment prevalent in the country.
The result is thousands of youths who are unable to find jobs are lounging around foreign embassies, cafes, and city centers. They are escaping from crushing unemployment, poverty and uncertain future.
These youth are under pressure from two fronts, one from their parents who are eager for them to find a job and want them to create future for themselves. Secondly, the youth want to accomplish something meaningful such as creating family and to contribute society.
Sadly, these bright young people after waiting years for job opportunities that never arrive are bored and finally are detached from the world they live in. They see their live meaningless and are willing to gamble it all. They are choosing between two equally perilous alternatives (1) Put their lives at risk as they go on a boat journey in search of better life in Europe (2) Join the criminal underworld such as Al Shabab and Piracy.
Absurd as it may seem, both alternatives seem to give them a sense of purpose and escape from crushing poverty and boredom. The refugee smuggling rings gives the sales pitch that “if you raise this small amount of money we will take you to Europe where economic opportunities are plenty- jobs and better life is awaiting for you. You will pay your debt within few months of arriving European shoes”.
Al Shabab have theirs “look while these officials and NGO managers are enjoying life of luxury and safety of high walls, they are wasting your future, we have a better future for you and if you join us, we will fight them and liberate you from these evil creatures that put you in this situation, you are going to get a job, get married and above all, you are one of us working for the betterment of your religion and land”.
The pirates make similar pitch “Look these huge Chinese illegal fishing ships are taking your tuna and depleting your resources to oblivion and they are not paying a penny of tax, worse yet, when they deliver their tuna cargo they bring deadly chemicals and industrial waste to dumb our shores, how about if you join us protect our ocean from these bad people, we are self-appointed Somali navy and you are not only protecting your shores but you are going to get rich as well”
Whether we like it or not, or we acknowledge or not, the fact of the matter is, this is the Somalia’s youth landscape of today. It does not matter if they are in Mogadishu, Hargeysa, Boosaso, Baydhabo, or Kismayo the picture is the same.
The good news is, this should not be and thanks to the geography of Federal Republic of Somalia, it is fixable. In fact, the solution will produce the desired results within 3 years, but it needs willing partners. I will elaborate the solution but allow me to lay the groundwork of what needs to happen before this solution can be implemented.
1. The solution must be collaborative effort between the youth, educational institutions, government, United Nations, NGOs and international partners.
2. The solution must provide apprenticeship education to prepare the youth with the skills they need to succeed in the new job creation initiative (for example teach the specific trade skills like fishing)
3. There must be seed funding in terms of equipment, land and initial startup resource and matching of the entrepreneur with cooperative enterprise that is available in his/her environment.
4. It must be cooperatives that are small to medium industries that feed and depend on each other for selling and pooling resources together.
5. It must be inward looking - the job must be produced and made totally within the confines of the locally available natural resources.
6. It must have access to established experts to guide the initial months until fully operational stage is achieved
7. Last but not least, there must be cooperative owned agency and supported by the government that oversees the sales, marketing, pricing, logistics and negotiation on behalf of the cooperatives in the international market place.
The solution must begin with the abundant resources that can easily be produced mainly livestock, fishing and farming. For example, here are the areas that can show significant changes in the youth unemployment:
1. Poultry Cooperatives (Processed Chicken and Eggs)
2. Milk production – Milk and milk byproduct cooperatives
3. Meat (Sheep/Goat/Cow/Camel) farms
4. Meat processing cooperatives
1. Fishing cooperatives
2. Fishing byproduct cooperatives
1. Farming (mix of cash crop and other crops) cooperatives
2. Farm product processing
3. Animal feed (grass and hay) producing cooperatives
Youth unemployment in Somalia is ticking time bomb that cannot be swept under the rag and cannot be ignored. It is a problem that is directly tied to security, stability, and nation building. It needs optimists with practical solutions and collaboration between the youth, government, academia, and willing international partners. To achieve that, we must first, acknowledge the problem exists and we need practical local solutions to fix it.