For the majority of people, mainly the businesspeople, Somalia doesn’t include in their discussion when entertaining the idea of where to invest next. For them, Somalia is a no-to-go place and a hostile environment for business. That logic of reasoning is quite understandable when you don’t have a complete picture of the country. Plus, Somalia became a byword for state failure and chaos. But don’t judge the food by just eating from one side of the plate; you need to eat from the whole plate. Same goes for Somalia.
Why you need to know the Somali people before Somalia as a country?
If you meet a Kenyan, Ugandan, South African, Tanzanian, South Sudanese, or even residents in Minnesota, London, and other popular Western cities and ask them about the Somali people, they will easily tell you that Somalis are amazing business people. Somali shops are found everywhere Somali communities live in. They are one of the most successful immigrant communities around the world. Amina Hersi Moghe, for example, a Somali-Kenyan, is one of Africa’s most successful female entrepreneurs. The media call her The Village Girl who changed Kampala’s urban lifestyle. Even, Forbes included her in its rich list.
Somali businesspeople are making waves around the world. If you meet Ismail Ahmed, the founder of World Remit, you’ll see a real example of the entrepreneurial mindset of the Somali people. According to CNN Money, he’s “shaking up the money transfer industry”. He created a global business from a personal problem – commuting hours to send money back to Somalia. World Remit is a London-based online money transfer service and it’s one of the fastest growing online companies in the world.
HASS Petroleum, a Somali oil and investment company based in Kenya, is building Pinnacle Towers, Africa’s tallest building. It’s a 70-floor mixed-use twin tower development. It includes a 45-floor Hilton hotel.
There are also locally successful businesspeople that are making the lives of Somalis better. Ahmed Nur Ali Jimale is the founder of Hormuud Telecom, the largest telecommunication company in Somalia. Abdirashi Dualle is also another giant Somali and the CEO of Dahabshiil, the most successful remittance company in Africa. These two businesses give examples that you can create a world-renowned business in a turmoil country.
So why do you need to know Somalis before their country? Because, when it comes to business, Somalis are very reliable and honest business partners. Respecting business relationships is something that Somalis are good at. A good friend of mine from South Sudan once told me, “Most shops in South Sudan give loans to Somalis because the shop owners know that Somalis will surely repay back at the end of the month.”
Even during the civil war, Somalia developed one of the best informal economies in the world (informal economy = an economy that flourishes without a strong government control). Instead, we have something called XEER – our traditional legal system in which our elders serve as mediator judges. This is something difficult to understand if you’re a non-Somali but this is one of the reasons why Somalia survived the civil war.
Not only in business but Somalis are also active in other life responsibilities. For example, Ahmed Hussein, a Somali refugee, is now the minister of immigration in Canada. Ilhan Omar, another Somali immigrant, became the first Somali-American legislator elected to office in the US.
Somalia offers an Untapped Market of Opportunities
Are you a businessperson? If yes, you better go to Somalia now before anyone else does because here’s the secret: Somalia offers you an untapped market. I know the risks involved in my country and I’m not exaggerating it but there’s a basic lesson taught in business schools: the higher the risk, the higher the return. Plus, investing earlier in a post-conflict country gives you a market with almost no competition. And if you’re a philanthropist, your investment helps stabilize the country and have a great social and political impact.
And if that’s not convincing yet, read the story of Jonathan Starr. He left his job in Silicon Valley as a hedge-fund manager and founded a school in Somalia, Abaarso School. His school is now one of the best schools in Somalia, if not the best. Real entrepreneurs are those who see opportunities before the lay people. Come to Somalia and invest in beaches, coastlines, diverse wildlife, rich farmlands, or even real-estate. It depends on where your business taste lies.
When the lay people see Somalia as a perilous country, entrepreneurs see money in Somalia. Somalia can make you a millionaire faster if you know how to play games in unstable countries.