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Somali Diaspora entrepreneurs as engine of growth

On regular basis DutchSom interviews a Somali entrepreneur or professional from the private sector in The Netherlands or in the country of origin. Our first interview is with Khaalid Hassan who worked in the Dutch public and private sectors. He was also an active member of the Somali community of Delft before he became country representative for Spark.

This is an interview with Khaalid Hassan who is the country representative of Spark in Somalia.

Can you explain the migrant entrepreneurship program of Spark?  SPARK recently started the Migrant Entrepreneurship program in six countries, among them is Somalia. With this program SPARK aims to find and train migrants in The Netherlands with a good business idea and entrepreneurial potential. In the Somali context, this program is very relevant and offers great potential for migrant. In Somalia the Diaspora has played a significant role in the development of the country and Somali Diaspora entrepreneurs can even become an engine of growth for the country.

Why did you decide to go back and do this type of work there instead of in the Netherlands? The Somali region in the Horn of Africa is by far the most underdeveloped region in the World, facing many tremendous challenges like civil war, famine, climate change, water shortages, etc. I think those of us who grew up in countries like the Netherlands, were very fortunate and were less affected by the three decades of conflict and suffering.  Because we are regarded as outsiders, people who have lived abroad for a long time and were on the sideline from all internal strives, I think we are in a better position to see the common good and think outside the box and thus have a moral responsibility to try to contribute to the development of our people. In addition to the previous we are able to transfer knowledge gained abroad.

Are there other Dutch Somali Diaspora members who also went back and started businesses, how are they progressing? There are many Dutch-Somali’s who came back and started their own business. I would estimate that there are around 100-150 Dutch Somali Entrepreneurs here and this number is increasing by the day. Many of them are very successful and are well known entrepreneurs. They often employ experiences and ideas they gained in the Netherlands and many import goods and products from the Netherlands, like milk powder, agricultural equipments, tractors, etc.

You went back few times, what kind of changes in the private sector are you seeing during the last few years? The economy is growing, business is booming and the number of opportunities is increasing depending on the region, regional governance and level of security.

How do you see the Somali private sector developing (outlook coming years)? The region is definitely at an economic turning point. Significant progress has been made in peace- and state-building. The more stable regions of Somaliland and Puntland (areas that enjoy relative peace and stability) have established functioning governance structures and favorable business environments that have facilitated foreign investment in sectors including natural resources, oil exploration, livestock, import and export, telecommunications, financial sector and more.  But there are also significant operational challenges to working with businesses in Somalia. Few of these challenges are security that remains a concern in some regions of South-Central, lack of coherent governance system and the financial industry is not linked with the international formal financial institutions.

What would you advice other professionals who have ideas to go back? I would advise, especially the young professional to first visit the country for a period of months, to prevent a cultural shock. Many young professionals never went back and moving back in once, could create problems in adapting in to the Somali society and a cultural shock for someone without any prior experience in the region.

Thank you Khaalid. This was an interview with Khaalid Hassan who is the country representative of Spark.