EDITORIAL – Somalia’s journey from state collapse in 1991 to revival, Finance Minister Abdirahman Duale Beileh claimed at a forum recently in November, is routinely linked to negativity: refugees, collapsed systems, insecurity and humanitarian aid; even when better things happen.
Today, about two million Somalis live abroad, according to various estimates from the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program.
Some may be refugees, but others are skilled in academia, business, and industry; to send millions of dollars home a year. In 2015, the World Bank estimated that Somalis abroad sent about $ 1.6 billion home, supporting approx. a quarter of GDP. The amount has since risen to $ 2 billion.
Interestingly, despite Somalia appearing to rejuvenate itself over the years, the number of diasporas continued to grow, according to a study by the UN Ministry of Economy. In fact, it is estimated that at least every Somali person living in Somalia knows and trusts a person living abroad who regularly sends money home, known as money transfers.
Dubai, London, Minneapolis, Nairobi, Oslo and Toronto are listed by the department as some of the cities with the highest population of Somalis. So important are the money transfers that CEO of money transfer service known as Dahabshill Abdirashid Duale in an interview with UN bulletin magazine Africa Renewal said that the economy of Somalia could collapse without money transfers.
“Transfers remain a lifeline for many Somalis. They help Somalis in many different ways, “he told the magazine.
“As long as there is peace, people will continue to return to their homeland. Transfers are set to continue to flow, just like other investments.
Hussein Arab Essa, Somali federal MP representing Northwestern Somalia and once former deputy prime minister under Sheikh Shariff Ahmed’s presidency, explained the importance of the diaspora.
“Somalis are a people. The diaspora sends money home. In fact, there would be no Somali economy without a diaspora, ”he told Axadlein an interview on Wednesday.
“It simply came to our notice then. It is their lifeline because the Somali economy is no longer creating new jobs or opportunities. ” Sir. Issa was educated in the United States and returned to Somalia to take on his political roles.
However, remittances and recurring diaspora were not often fully welcome. A study by the UNDP showed that while the diaspora promoted humanitarian work, education, health care and reconstruction through private sector investment, however, some locals complained that returnees could take over jobs because of their skills, so there was some element of mistrust
So what has changed since the UNDP survey was conducted in 2012? Beileh, an economics professor who spent many years abroad, claimed that Somalia is now “new” to everything.
“Everything we have today (in Somalia) is new: the fact that we collect taxes is new, the fact that we know who works for the government by name and account number is new … diaspora is coming back is new, with their skills and their money …, ”he told the Brookings Institution in November.
The Somali government, from President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo and his Prime Minister Hassan Khaire to his cabinet, is in fact full of recurring diaspora, some of which have dual nationality.
“They return with much-needed skills and competencies. “The fact that the current president and prime minister himself was once a diaspora is a sign of how easy it is for diaspora-returning to rise to power in Somalia,” Yasir M. Abdirahman, a political adviser on Somali affairs, told Garowe Online.
“In the last few years, the attitude of the Somalis has begun to change. They are not leaving the country in droves as before and are now speaking up. In fact, they also support the limited role that recurring in the diaspora is. It is an ongoing discussion. ”
But in all respects, the diaspora is also a political issue. The UNDP survey showed that Somalis may send money home but may not be organized abroad, leading to ‘other diaspora’ mainly due to clan and political inclinations at home. Yet some of them at home are accused of perpetuating the very clan differences in order to expand personal ambitions.
“The diaspora brings in a new type of thinking. The disappointing part is that the current leadership, which consists mainly of diaspora returnees, has chosen a system from 1970s Somalia, ”lamented Mr Issa.
“It is not a management system you expect from those who have been in the diaspora, where there are better management prototypes, a better democracy. In fact, the irony is that local politicians seem to be proposing better solutions seen through the formation of the FNP, ”he added, referring to the coalition known as the Forum for National Parties.
In October, parties led by former presidents Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Sheikh Sharif Ahmed met along with four other political movements to form the FNP.
It was the first time in Somalia’s history that a coalition was formed, and political leaders affiliated with the group said they would show that Somalia’s diaspora can work with local leaders to break clan-based barriers.
“The diaspora has had good networks abroad, they have made good investments at home. Some have lived in countries with better systems to learn from, ”said Mohamed Hassan Idriss, another federal lawmaker from Jubbaland State.
Sir. Idriss, who has lived in the Netherlands and currently serves as a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, argued that the FNP could help transcend clan politics by offering a new type of ideology.
Both Ahmed and Mohamud were educated outside the country (Libya and Sudan and India and the United States, respectively). But the FNP argues that they largely stayed at home, in the political arena shows those returning from the diaspora can contribute to better politics at home.
“During Sheikh Sharif Ahmed’s time as president, most returning diaspora actually invested their money,” Essa said, referring to President Ahmed’s time between 2009 and 2012. Ahmed had been the leader of the Union of Islamic Courts from 2006, which supporters say helped to protect Mogadishu from extremists before the transitional government stabilized.
“Right now people are returning, but they are holding on to money. Hotels, shops owned by recurring shutters. Why? Because they are being double-taxed for the first time in history, ”he said without elaborating. However, a recent report from VOA Somalia revealed that Shabaabs had also taxed dealers.