LONDON, Feb. 21, 2012 /CNW/ - The CEO of Dahabshiil, Somalia's largest
private sector employer, has called for the international community to
help unlock the potential of social entrepreneurship in the region, so
it can stage its own recovery from issues that have plagued it for more
than 20 years.
Speaking ahead of the London Somalia Conference, to be chaired by
British Prime Minister David Cameron, Abdirashid Duale, CEO of
Dahabshiil, Africa's largest money transfer business, said: "Somalis
have high hopes that the international community will develop a
concrete plan to improve the region's future.
"The key to unlocking Somalia's potential is international investment in
social entrepreneurship and education. It will help Somalis help
themselves by teaching them how to create new business opportunities,
more jobs and a more sustainable economy. These practical alternatives
will protect vulnerable Somalis, particularly younger generations, from
the pressure put on them by extremist groups linked to piracy and
"As the Somali proverb goes 'the worst man is he who never sows, never consults and never
economises', meaning that our communities most value those that use their minds or
assets to help themselves and others."
The conference, organised by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, will
be attended by more than 40 governments and international
organisations, including the United Nations, African Union, European
Union and the World Bank. Somali officials, including the Presidents of
the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), Somaliland, Puntland,
Galmudug and Ahlu Sunnah wal Jamaah will also be in attendance.
To be held at Lancaster House on 23 February, the conference aims to
deliver commitment and coordination for a new international approach to
tackle Somalia's problems of terrorism, piracy, food shortage and the
political vacuum affecting the region.
Addressing an audience of Somalis at Chatham House recently, UK Foreign
Secretary William Hague said he was confident the conference would mark
a turning point by "putting the needs of Somalis front and centre."
Hague also emphasised that solutions must be Somali-led. "We can help
get Somalia on its feet - we cannot do the running for it", he said.
Mr Duale added: "The conference addresses issues that are highly
political, but if the Somali region is to be rehabilitated, then its
business community - domestic and international - must be central to
any agreed plan. Diaspora-led businesses in Somalia play a crucial role
in bringing expertise and investment to the private sector.
"Those Somalis with the most at stake, who understand the many complex
issues first-hand, tend to be those who live and work within the
region. In pursuit of sustainable development, stability and effective
government, multi-lateral organisations such as the African Union, UN,
EU and World Bank need to find ways to help these various groups play
to their strengths."
Dahabshiil, which handles the majority of the $1.6bn remitted to Somalia
by its diaspora, has a long history of partnership with international
organisations, supporting development initiatives and providing
financial services to 95% of NGOs operating there. Dahabshiil Group
spans money transfer, banking and telecoms, and employs around 5,000
people within Somalia itself, across regional and clan lines.
As part of a wide-ranging corporate social responsibility programme
financed by 5% of its annual profits, the company funds the main
hospital in Mogadishu and is a major donor to healthcare programmes
throughout the Horn of Africa. At the height of last year's drought,
Dahabshiil donated over US$200,000 to the relief effort and called for
other businesses to follow suit. The firm contributes to infrastructure
projects and makes regular donations of cash and equipment to schools
and universities throughout the region.
Mr Duale believes that alongside business growth it is imperative that
Somalis have access to a good education. He said: "There are now ten
universities in Hargeisa and an increasing number of young people are
choosing to pursue further education within the Somali regions instead
of leaving. It is vital that we, alongside the international community,
continue to make strenuous efforts in education as it will play a vital
role in the development of a sustainable economy."
It is increasingly recognised that the Somali youth represent a great
challenge both in the diaspora and in the region itself. The
international community has already stepped-up its efforts to engage
disenfranchised young Somalis in the UK, Mogadishu and elsewhere, with
part-government funded organisations such as the London Somali Youth
Forum playing a particularly active role.
Referring to recent actions of a Minnesota bank in the US, which stopped
money transfers to Somalia in fear of prosecution under US anti-terror
laws, Mr Duale expressed his concern for those who rely heavily on
remittances to survive.
He said: "Annual remittances to the Somali region are greater than
funding from international aid. The flow of financial and human
resources between the diaspora and the domestic population is crucial
to sustained development, and the international community should not
obstruct the efforts of Somalis to help themselves, whether it's by
sending money or by travelling to and from the region."
Following the global media's recent focus on the international impact of
piracy and terrorism, Mr Duale was keen to highlight the effect on
day-to-day business in the region itself.
"The threat of piracy and insurgent groups translate to increased
business costs, such as insurance, shipping and internal security for
firms trying to operate in these areas. Greater stability and
continuity in the Somali government is a prerequisite to any long term
solution. The conference must lay the foundations for this, as
businesses are currently at the mercy of the government's constantly
changing nature and its lack of effective authority."
Looking ahead, Mr Duale believes that to secure a brighter future for
all Somalis it is imperative the international community help to build
better infrastructure - citing roads and hospitals as necessary sources
of investment. He also believes that Somalia would benefit from greater
UN involvement, including closer collaboration with the private sector
and greater investment from Turkey, the Middle East and other members
of The Arab League.
Mr Duale also welcomed the recent aid from international donors, but
said further humanitarian support is still required.
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