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Somalia:’Here, unemployment is a normal’

“Each year, hundreds decide to try their luck against all odds, by getting to the shores of Europe, crossing continents, deserts and dangerous seas. Most of them do not make it and many perish on the way, Here, the unemployment is a normal.” said by Farhan, Social activist

Somalia was very poor by any standard. Today, it is in a much worse situation, and the poverty and unemployment of its people have increased enormously. As a result of Somalia’s 23-year devastating war, and since the country has not yet witnessed any meaningful political stability or economic development, the unemployment situation in Somalia is especially heart-wrenching. It is a war that, according to UN reports, has caused “a massive destruction to the means of production and the natural and human resources of the country.

Prof. I. M. Lewis, put it while describing how Somalia has retrogressed in the past 20 years or so with the total destruction of all its government institutions: “The political geography of the Somali hinterland, consequently, closely resembled that reported by European explorers in the 19th century with spears replaced by Kalashnikovs and bazukas.”  As such, if real security, stability, and a modicum of law and order are to be restored to Somalia, whose economy has been almost totally destroyed, Thus, the leaders of the current government have to step up to the plate and do their level best to tackle the severe unemployment situation which now prevails in the country. The steps they have lately been taking, with the support of the African Union peacekeeping forces, in terms of collecting all kinds of weapons and destroying them – and, thus, pacifying the capital city (Mogadishu) which currently experiences the finest security situation in the country – are very commendable and appropriate steps.

Current Unemployment Situation in Somalia

A study carried out in Sept. 2014 by a group of graduate students,indicated that out of 500 people interviewed, only 15 percent were employed. Thus, Let us look back, for the year 1985 for which reliable data are available, Somalia’s gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at US $880 million (for neighboring Ethiopia, the figure is around 8 times as much), and the per capita income of its people was estimated at $160 (for Sub-Saharan Africa, the current comparable figure is $745). The aforesaid GDP comprised: Agriculture 67%, services 25% and industry 8% only. The country’s exports, consisting mainly of livestock, bananas and hides and skins, amounted to a mere $93 million, while its imports recorded $373 million (i.e., four times as

much as its exports). But the country’s economic activities are currently believed to be greatly fueled by remittances from the Somalis in the Diaspora who are estimated to send to their relatives back home approximately $360 million annually. However, the second generation of Somali immigrants may not be so generous with their painstakingly earned money, as one of the World Bank’s recent reports has stated. On the other hand, thousands upon thousands of Somalis, who are scattered across the country as internally displaced persons (IDPs) or as refugees in neighboring countries, have left their farms and/or small businesses, because of insecurity. According to the World Bank report, the unemployment rate stands at 66% for the urban and 41% for rural and nomadic areas.

This translates to a 47% unemployment rate for Somalia as a whole -one of the highest unemployment rates presently taking place in Sub-Saharan Africa. Stated differently, almost half of Somalia’s population is now out of work. (Under normal conditions, if this rate reaches 10% in a country, it would be considered a big disaster).Here, it is not surprising that the unemployment rate is significantly higher in urban areas, because when Somalia had a functioning central

government, the overwhelming majority of urban dwellers used to get paid employment opportunities from the various government institutions (i.e., the civil service, the police, the national army, etc.) and its autonomous public enterprises.

Due to the prevalence of severe poverty and lack of employment opportunities, as indicated earlier, many of the armed young men, who represent the urban drop-outs, armed thugs and those brought from the countryside and/or nomadic areas, ostensibly to help Al-shabaab – the ruthless in their war efforts to assume full control over the government or gains by force.

The way look forward

In the light of the above brief analysis and in order to address the acute unemployment problem in the country, it would be advisable for the present government in Somalia to take bold steps along the following lines.

  1.     Restoration of law and order: There is no doubt that restoration of peace, security and stability is the sine qua non condition for improving the economic situation. Without that, the millions of internally displaced people as well as Somalis in the Diaspora will not go back to their original abodes in order to earn livelihood by lawful means in addition to contributing to the reconstruction of their unlucky country – a country that has to start from scratch, as Somalia is today, in the opinion of some observers, in a much worse situation than where it was when it gained its independence almost 50 years ago.Reconstruction of the Somali Government’s institutions: Immediate steps are required to be taken to rehabilitate and reconstruct the

Somali Government’s institutions as soon as feasible. If this is accomplished, thousands of Somalis would, in the long-run, get a chance for obtaining recent jobs with the national government.

  1.      Opening up vocational training centers: One way of improving employment chances for the demobilized ex-armed militias would be to re-open the numerous vocational and technical centers/institutes, which Somalia had before the start of its tragic civil war, for the purpose of teaching them some basic technical skills or trades in such areas as: carpentry, plumbing, electric works, car repairs, etc., Those who don’t desire to engage in these skills, usually needed by the market, could be absorbed in the national police and army forces that will be formed and consolidated in the near future to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Somalia.
  2.      Encouraging the Small microfinance enterprises: Another important approach for enhancing employment opportunities and eradicating poverty could be for the national authorities to encourage and promote small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to aid, particularly, the poor Somali women, many of whom have been heading families and have been their only bread-earners as their husbands were either killed, maimed or engaged in Somalia’s senseless fratricidal warfare of the past 20 years or so. To achieve this, Somali Government would be advised to revive, as soon as possible, the banking sector, especially the now defunct Somali Development Bank, in order to extend loans (preferably soft ones) to the qualified Somali citizens. Over the centuries, Somalis have been known to be naturally born entrepreneurs who are good, particularly, at engaging in trade and commerce.
  3.      Learning from the experience of other developing countries: Somalia could greatly benefit from the experience of some other developing countries like Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in Asia, in the field of poverty reduction through micro-financing programs.

Finally, some people may think that the above-mentioned recommendations or remedies for Somalia’s dire unemployment situation are far-fetched and unrealistic given the country’s current situation. Today, the country cannot forever remain in this senseless civil strife and sooner or later it will be incumbent upon Somalis to get serious and think about rebuilding their lives and reconstructing their devastated homeland. It is also reasonable at times to dream in

order to achieve lofty goals – like tackling Somalia’s current appalling unemployment situation. This is so, because as an American social worker, a lady by the name of Jane Addams put it almost a hundred years ago: “Of all the aspects of social misery, nothing is as heartbreaking as unemployment.”

BY: Hassan mudane,
Researcher/Political commentator
Mudanep5@gmail.com

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About Hassan mudane

Hassan mudane Researcher/political commentator [email protected]

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