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Diaspora: Make a mark where you are

Liban Obsiye & Sakariye Hussein
Saturday, December 10, 2016
Those returning to Somalia -- including investors wanting to start new business in the their homeland ,Somalia.

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The Somali Diaspora has proven itself to be one of the most dynamic and reliable support sources for their families and countrymen back home since the collapse of the State in 1991. In fact, the total sum of remittances sent home by the estimated 2 million Somali Diaspora overshadowsall aid spending in the country. In all policy forums globally, Diaspora engagement, participation and contribution is not just highly valued but directly courted and encouraged by the Somali Government, its foreign partners and international actors. 

The Somali Diaspora’s contribution to Somalia’s progress is ongoing and far more diverse than just sending remittances. Many Somalis from the Diaspora have returned to Somalia to serve in public institutions, establish businesses and even retire in the sunshine in Somalia’s various regions. In this year’s ongoing national elections, more Diaspora candidates than ever have competed for Parliamentary seats. Clearly, this is a sign of the slow but steady national progress that is allowing the Diaspora to return and contribute. 

While it is the right of every Somali to return to participate in the nation’s reconstruction and transformation, it is important to ensure that those returning add value to what already exists on the ground. Somalia, like every nation in the world today, needs to compete for and attract entrepreneurs andinnovative qualified professionals with the required experience in key sectors of human resource shortages as well as investors.Many of these will most likely be the Diaspora in Somalia’s immediate case given the current security situation.

However, those members of the Diaspora who do not fit into these categories can contribute more meaningfully by making a mark where they already are.Much of the criticism of the Somali Diaspora in Somalia at present is that a substantial number among are underqualified and lack the professional experience to drive forward the necessary reforms required for Somalia’s development.

While there are manyprofessionals with the relevant qualifications and experience working, and contributing in their fields of expertise, many other more are generalists often without any relevant professional experience and local knowledge. The best way for the Diaspora to contribute to Somalia is to fill existing skills gaps and institutional deficiencies by complimenting the efforts of their brothers and sisters on the ground already engaged in these activities. 

Speaking with many young diaspora professionals in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, it was clear they all wanted to return to Somalia for various reasons including working for the Government and entering politics. While these aspirations are clearly encouraged across the board, it is important that these young professionals also realise that they will contribute more to Somalia if they are able to advance their careers in their adopted homes and hence improve their knowledge, technical skills and widen their professional networks. 

The sad reality is that many young aspirant returnee diaspora do not always fully appreciate that Somalia is at a stage where institutions are developing but slowly given the over twenty years of destructive civil war. It was only in 2012 that Somalia exited the transitional period with the first internationally recognised Government led by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. In this critical period where there are also great economic challenges it is paramount that Somalia’s most qualified and experienced diaspora contribute their knowledge, experience and capital generously for the rebuilding of Somalia. Those with less experience such as new graduates and those in the early stages of their careers should focus on strengthening their professional and personal capacity to make an impact in Somalia by first establishing themselves and then leaving a mark where they are.

 Many Somalis in the diaspora, professional and otherwise, are driven to return to Somalia by promise of professional fulfilment which they do not feel they can achieve where they are. However, while there are local and global challenges in the labour markets across all sectors, the Somali diaspora must be patient and tenacious in pursuing their desired roles.  In this area, we must learn from the successes of other diaspora communities such as the Indians, Chinese and Filipinos.

While these communities came under different circumstances to many places where the Somali diaspora live today across the globe,they are engaged in professionally contributing to their adopted homes while also supporting their families and native countries. 

Making a mark where they are as professionals, entrepreneurs, community leaders, neighbours and politicians will most certainly ensure the social mobility the Somali diaspora so desperately desire. It will also enable them to not only accumulate the expertise and experience they require to meaningfully contribute in Somalia but also build that solid golden bridge of understanding and collaboration for progress and prosperity between their two homes. 

LibanObsiye is a Senior Adviser to the Somali Minister for Foreign Affairs and Investment Promotion. He can be contacted through the below means: 

[email protected]  

Sakariye Hussein is a member of the Global Somalia Diaspora’s Senior Management Team in London. He can be contacted through the below means:

[email protected]  

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