On November 23rd, a conference to commemorate the Somali chapter of the Global Entrepreneurship Week was held at Maansoor Hotel in Hargeisa, Somaliland with a wide range of participants in attendance.
With a particularly strong focus on inspiring and empowering youth entrepreneurship, the conference’s key objective was raising the awareness of local businesses, civil society, policymakers and the international community on the socioeconomic and structural challenges faced generally by entrepreneurs in Somaliland, especially youth.
Officially opening the conference, Hon. Hersi H. Ali Hassan, the Minister of Presidency conveyed his appreciation for the significant role the private sector plays in social development and nation-building. He, in turn, he also stressed there was a great need to engage in concerted and cross-sectoral efforts to create an enabling business-friendly environment for entrepreneurs. While acknowledging the importance structural reform, the Minister also emphasised in harnessing the entrepreneurial spirit of local populations cannot be left to the government alone. As such, he implored on the business community to demonstrate greater willingness to work together in exploiting local resources to stimulate economic prosperity.
Concurring with these sentiments, Hon. AbdiAziz Samale, the Minister of Finance, provided a detailed account of the important strides the government has made over the past four years to significantly increase the country’s annual budget through improved state revenue and fiscal systems. The Minister also highlighted a number of critical challenges which limits economic growth including the high rate of Khat consumption, although it constitutes one of the largest sources of revenue for the state and employer, the Minister stated that, the associated social and economic problems with its consumption far outweighs the benefits both in the short as well as long-term.
Reaffirming the perils faced by the business community, the Minister of Commerce, Dr. Musa Qasim, highlighted a number of critical initiatives in which his ministry has engaged as part of efforts to creating an enabling environment for local enterprises. For example, housed inside the Ministry of Commerce, the One-Stop Shop is a single-location agency that will streamline the paperwork and formalities involved in obtaining business license and certification. The agency, which will be launched in December, is part of a strategic response to minimise the daunting bureaucracy that often dispirits local entrepreneurs. The minister is also committed to formulate national entrepreneurship policy emphasising youth start-ups and local entrepreneurs in partnership with Shaqodoon organization.
The Minister of Youth and Sport, Hon. Ali Saed Raygal, spoke lengthily of the overall challenges facing the youth in general, but particularly with regards to their capacity to engage into business ventures. While attributing some of the challenges to the fact that the country is still recovering from the heritage of war, he also mentioned the use of Khat and illegal migration as among a list of other social ills facing the youth. He implored on the youth to demonstrate maturity and willingness to engage in meaningful ways to improve their own lives.
Three lively panel discussions were facilitated during the event in which representatives of the private sector, civil society, academia, and government participated. Despite their busy schedules, the ministers demonstrated their commitment to the issue at hand by actively participating in the panel discussions.
Led by the Minister of Commerce, Dr. Musa Qasim, the first panel examined the importance of sound and efficient policies in the creation of an enabling environment for business and enterprise. While the substantial steps recently taken by the government were acknowledged including the soon-to-be launched One-Stop Shop and Investment Portal, it was agreed that the existing system and policies were a hindrance to innovation and entrepreneurship in this country. In response, the panel proposed a critical review of existing laws and policies as part of a comprehensive and multi-sectoral effort to empowering local populations.
Reaffirming the role played by the country’s entrepreneurs in driving economic growth and developing solutions to local problems, the second panel discussion examined the major opportunities open to local entrepreneurs and, in turn, the challenges they face in harnessing those prospects. The panel, which was led by Hon. Ali Saed Raygal, the Minister of Youth, underlined lack of skilled workforce, lack of access to finance and structural inefficiencies as the major critical factors challenging how entrepreneurs do business in this country. While it was agreed that some of these challenges will require a long-term multi-sectoral strategy, the need for a quick response from the different stakeholders was also underscored.
Titled “Access to Source of Finance for Start-up” the final panel looked at the limited options the vast majority of entrepreneurs face in securing capital for start-ups or expansion to existing businesses. During the panel discussion, representatives from the country’s major financial institutions – i.e. MicroDahab and Dara Salaama Bank – took the floor to illustrate the process through which entrepreneurs and local businesspeople can secure investment loans and credit from their respective institutions. Although recognising the importance of their services to the wider business community, it was widely-acknowledged that the parameter of their systems continues to alienate youth entrepreneurs. In response, representatives from these institutions pledged their willingness to exploring with options that would render their investment and credit systems more youth-friendly. The panel, which was led by Mr. Abdi Guray, the Director General of the Ministry of Industry, agreed there was a greater need for tapping into alternative sources of capital such as crowd-funding and local diaspora investment prospects as finance options for particularly youth entrepreneurs.
All in all, the conference achieved its stated objective of raising the awareness of a range of actors and stakeholders on the importance of inspiring and empowering the youth to engage in entrepreneurship. The conference provided youth entrepreneurs and advocates the opportunity to engage and exchange views with policymakers at the highest level as well as key decision-makers from the country’s major financial institutions. The conference was also able to celebrate the achievements of renowned local youth entrepreneurs for their contribution to promote the country’s social and economic transformation and, by extension, its overall stability.