The Somali Diaspora make major contributions to the Somali economy and livelihoods through remittances, humanitarian assistance and participation in recovery and reconstruction efforts.
Many Diaspora individuals and groups start businesses in Somalia that create jobs for the local economy and population.
The business intervention of the Diaspora is spread over a wide range of sub-sectors, such as: small-scale industries, telecommunication, construction, remittances and trade. The scope, level of investment and geographical distribution of the products or services delivered by these business sub-sectors are different.
However, these investments have all created employment opportunities, which improve the livelihoods of many families, and also provide affordable services, provide revenue for governmental institutions and introduce new ways of doing business, with a culture of good practices for the local businesses.
Examples include: modern real estate facilities in Somalia, the Coca Cola factory in Mogadishu, the new Somali privately owned Salama Bank and Premier Bank and IBS (international bank of Somalia) and the burgeoning Information Communication and Technology (ICT) industry managed by the telecommunication companies operating throughout Somalia, like Hormuud Telecommunication and Somtel. The Somali Diaspora investment in the economy is particularly important, since they alone have been willing to risk investment in a climate of great uncertainty and economic risk. The role of the Diaspora in economic recovery has provided a foundation for political reconstruction and harmony in many regions of Somalia.
The positive contribution of the FM radios in Somalia owned by Somali Diaspora is another example of the Diaspora acting as change agents. The early media outlets opened political space for the public through talk shows, direct interviews and teleconferencing of Somalis inside Somalia, the Diaspora, and sometimes the internationals who follow Somali affairs and the diplomatic corps of other countries. This media space enabled people to express their views freely. The media outlets portray not only the suffering of the Somali people, but also the positive side of Somali life, including the beauty of the landscape and potential investment opportunities for the local economy.
They present the success stories in both for profit and for not for profit undertakings. Despite some visible challenges, the Somali Diaspora remains the driving force behind the current informal economy.
In many parts of Somalia, the Diaspora established and supported organisations are the major sources of employment for the local labour market. This represents a significant contribution to the livelihoods of many Somali families. The telecommunication companies are financially cross-cutting in the Somali regions.
The cross-cutting character of business has also contributed to local peace building and forged links between Diaspora and local communities.
Global Somali Diaspora aspires to play a key role in supporting sustainable development by transferring a wealth of resources, knowledge and ideas back to into Somalia. Although personal savings is the largest source of capital for most start-ups businesses, GSD would like to explore ways to create access to external capital and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).
GSD wants to highlight the importance of working with the locals for a common good. For example, the diaspora employee/worker compliments the local rather than replaces them, contributes to the local economy as a consumer of goods and services.
It is well documented that diaspora members are mostly likely to:
- Startup businesses
- Create their own jobs as well as for the local workers
- That they hold at least a college degree, most of them advanced degree in a variety of fields.
- They boost demand for local consumer goods specially in the housing market.
Part of the GSD mission is to emphasise the importance of a strong collaboration between diaspora and the local work force for the general development of the country. To create the best possible co-operation between diaspora and Somali nationals in the country (locals), GSD recommends the following steps:
- That the Somali government, in collaboration with the GSD organization, creates a (voluntary) database that makes diaspora information available to facilitate collaborations and to match highly skilled individuals with potential partners. The growing predictability of diaspora resources and numbers (as the next generation comes of age) will increasingly have influence on the social and economic development of Somalia.
- Special effort must be made (GSD, Somali government and international organisations) to formulate practical framework and policies that encourage full diaspora participation in these economic and technological developments.
- We must move from the limited (traditional) participation which is currently confined to money transfer and move to long term and broad engagement in areas of poverty reduction, health care and education.
We must all do a better job of raising awareness and explaining the importance of collaboration between all Somalis and the impact it can have, not only on nation building and reconciliation, but the long term effect on sustainable development, both economic and cultural.