Conference should focus on positives, argue Somali business leaders

 

The build up to the London conference on Somalia has focused on what doesn't work in the Horn of Africa nation - the coastguard, the central government, the security services - but the answer to the country's crisis lies in examining what does work, argue Somali business leaders.

Piracy, famine, kidnappings and a multi-sided battle against Islamic militants the Shabab dominate headlines in a country routinely referred to as the world's most-failed state. But there are regions of Somalia that are enjoying comparative stability and strong economic growth, argues Abdirashid Duale, the CEO of the region's leading money transfer company Dahabshil. Studying what's working in the relatively peaceful regions of the country may hold the key to solving the crisis in the southern and central regions which have been worst hit by war and famine.

"Many outsiders are not seeing the full picture," said Mr Duale. "It is true that politically, certain regions of Somalia have failed, but there are significant regions – particularly Somaliland, Puntland and Galmudug – that have benefited from diaspora investment and are relatively stable."

Much of the focus at the London talks will be international efforts to solve the Somali crisis but the biggest investor in the country - at $2bn annually -- is the Somali diaspora itself, he points out.

"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," said Mr Duale.

For two decades international engagement with Somalia has been dominated by the alternating approaches of military occupation or containment. Despite the disastrous effects of various military interventions, particularly the Ethiopian invasion in 2007, the first approach has remained popular with policy makers. While up until the Horn of Africa famine spurred a major international response the policy of containing Somalia's problems within its borders was the preferred policy option in a region heavily impacted by the US war on terror.

There has been very little focus on taking what hasn't failed in Somalia which typically revolves around the national obsession of trade, in sectors like livestock, and newer fields like telecoms and money transfer.

When the success of Dahabshiil and other money transfer systems has been discussed it has often been talked about in terms of blocking alleged funding of extremist groups like Shabab with its self-avowed links to al Qa'ida. In December US banks in Minnesota, which is home to America's largest Somali community shut down remittance services following the conviction of two ethnic Somali women for raising funds for the Shabab.

"Blocking remittances to Somalia from the diaspora in the US is very damaging to those who depend on that source of income to survive," said Duale. "Following the recent case in Minnesota, I would urge the international community not to follow suit."

He points out that annual remittances represent the largest capital inflow to the Somali region, "far greater than the funding it receives in international aid."

There is widespread frustration in the Somali business community that the remittance system is being targeted while aid to Somalia's dysfunctional central government is being increased despite its atrocious track record which includes embezzling funds meant to pay its soldiers who have then sold their weapons to the Shabab.

The London gathering backed by the British foreign office is expected to strengthen support to Somalia's transtional federal government (TFG) despite its history of squabbling and theft of foreign aid. There are calls for any new funding to focus on the education system and boosting economic efforts that could offer alternatives for young Somalis otherwise vulnerable for recruitment by radicals or pirates.

"Many of Somalia’s key business sectors are already thriving, while civil servants and government officials are often poorly paid and unaccountable, so the political process needs to catch up," said the Dahabshiil boss.

The strongest message from business and community leaders has been the need for a solution led by Somalis themselves to their country's enduring crisis.

"While the support of the international community is crucial, solutions to Somalia’s problems must be Somali-led," said Mr Duale. "The functioning administrations in certain regions show they are more than capable. The international community should recognise what Somalia has achieved and how it has achieved it."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
The Queen and the letter sent to Charlie
football
Arts and Entertainment
Eurovision Song Contest 2015
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
News
Two lesbians hold hands at a gay pride parade.
peopleIrish journalist shares moving story on day of referendum
Arts and Entertainment
<p>
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
</p>
<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
<p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
booksKathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
News
Liz Kendall played a key role in the introduction of the smoking ban
newsLiz Kendall: profile
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?