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BECO’s Solar Power, Bringing Cheaper, Cleaner Energy to SomaliaIn June 2020, Somalia’s largest electricity provider, BECO, announced the opening of a new solar power plant in the capital city of Mogadishu. BECO is the only company that provides electricity for Mogadishu, Afgooye, Balad, Barawe, Kismayu, Marka, Jowhar and Elasha. Although the company turned to solar power primarily to cut down on the cost of diesel fuel, its decision will have the added benefit of lowering air pollution. Additionally, BECO’s solar power plant will grow in capacity over time and lower electricity bills. BECO’s solar power plant could have a significant impact on Somalis, lifting many out of poverty.

Electricity in Somalia

Lack of access to electricity is widely cited as a large contributor to poverty. Without electricity, families don’t have a non-polluting source of energy for cooking. Refrigerators are unusable. Children can’t do their homework after dark. Communities can’t access all that the Internet offers for education and upward mobility. Hospitals and schools can’t offer full services. As a result, increasing access to electricity is often a goal of development efforts.

Somalia has particularly struggled with a lack of access to electricity. Before the civil war broke out in 1991, Somalia had a national power grid that produced 70 megawatts (MW) of electricity for the whole country. But the power grid was destroyed during the war and private corporations now provide any electricity available to residents. Currently, BECO produces 35 MW of power for eight cities, which is much less than its demand of 200 MW. Many Somalis avoid using electricity in order to avoid the monthly costs as 69% of Somalis are currently living in poverty.

Power companies in Somalia heavily rely on imported fossil fuels for diesel-powered generators. These generators are CO2 emitters and can heavily pollute the air. Despite the widespread use of generators, Somalia has only 106 MW of power nationwide, according to the United States Agency on International Development. The World Bank reported in 2018 that 64% of Somalis didn’t have access to electricity.

BECO’s Solar Power Plant

Because Somalia struggles with a lack of electricity and high electric costs, BECO’s new solar power plant has the potential to positively impact many people’s lives. When it opened, the power plant had the capacity to produce 8 MW. The solar power plant is only in use four hours a day, with BECO’s preexisting generators providing the rest of the electricity that the city needs. But residents’ electric bills have already gone down.

With the addition of the solar power plant, electricity costs in Mogadishu have already dropped from $0.49 to $0.36 per kilowatt-hour. BECO had originally decided to invest in solar power because of the high cost of importing diesel fuel for generators. By cutting costs, the company can offer cleaner energy at a more affordable price.

BECO plans to invest $40 million to bring the plant’s capacity to 100 MWp by 2022. This increase would enable the power plant to produce more electricity than twice its current output. However, the success of the solar plant will depend on battery storage.

Somalia’s Potential Future with Renewable Energy

BECO’s solar power plant is just the first step in Somalia’s possible path toward renewable energy. The African Development Bank reported in a study that Somalia had a greater potential for renewable energy than any other country in Africa. Onshore wind power could produce up to 45,000 MW of electricity. Solar energy has the potential to produce 2,000 kWh/m². If other Somali electric companies follow BECO’s example, Somalia’s electrical production could increase many times over.

It’s fortunate that in Somalia’s case, solar power is more affordable than the alternative. Simple market forces might solve Somalis’ lack of access to electricity. Although constructing facilities to produce solar power is expensive, companies would be able to provide electricity more cheaply and easily if they switch from importing fossil fuels to renewable energy. As a result of this cost decrease, electric bills would drop considerably as well. Once electricity becomes significantly cheaper, more Somalis will be able to access its benefits. BECO’s solar power plant is already reducing costs, and there’s no reason to believe that this trend won’t continue.

– Sarah Brinsley
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in SomaliaWhat do people tend to think about when they first hear the word “Somalia?” A Google search of Somalia would bring up pirates. Somalia is a small country off the coast of Africa and one of the poorest countries in the world with more than 50% of its population living in poverty. Poor living conditions and homelessness in Somalia afflict many of its citizens.

Somalia as of 2018

Government policy in Somalia is leaving the citizens out on the street. At the end of 2017, Somali government officials damaged around 3,000 homes in the city of Mogadishu. They used bulldozers to tear down houses and evicted people from their homes. In 2018, the government displaced more than 2 million people living in Somalia. Moreover, the number of homeless citizens in the nation reached millions.

Droughts have left the second-largest city in Somalia with hundreds of homeless children. Interviews with the children of Hargeisa revealed terrible conditions in which children left their homes due to neglect and loss of means. Moving from rural to urban cities has resulted in these children living on the street, addicted to smelling glue to ease the pain required to fight for their lives. The drought along with a lack of food, water and shelter has resulted in child death, every day in Somalia.

Homelessness in Somalia

Somalia is in grave need of humanitarian aid. Whether due to droughts, violence or politics — millions of Somali citizens have been displaced from their homes. Homelessness in Somalia has progressively become a more urgent issue. In October of 2019, flooding washed away thousands of homes, separating families. Another factor affecting homelessness in Somalia is the migration of citizens from rural areas to cities. People moving into urban areas are settling in tents with little protection.

Poor sanitation is also a significant issue in Somalia. The lack of proper housing combined with a lack of water and food can increase the risk of disease. The number of people affected by malnourishment in 2019 was in millions. Furthermore, this tragedy has a major effect on children. Malnourishment is one of the leading causes of death for 14% of children less than age five. The lack of humanitarian aid in Somalia is also causing citizens to flee from home and move toward urban housing. Those who choose to move, settle in “makeshift shelters” which increase their exposure to terrorism and abuse.

Hope for Somalia

Overall, homelessness in Somalia is the result of multiple factors. Violence and terrorism cause a majority of people to flee from their homes. Yet, forced evictions pose a major threat to families in the agricultural sector as well. Changing weather patterns and year-long droughts result in death, famine and the loss of homes. Political instability and regime changes are also an underlying cause of homelessness in Somalia.

On a more positive note, there is hope for the future of Somalia. In February of 2020, the World Bank announced it would normalize its relations with Somalia. This new relationship will go a long way in helping to grow the country politically, socially and economically. The World Bank is providing Somalia with grants of over $250 million to help reduce poverty. The grants will provide natural disaster recovery for citizens impacted by the droughts. In the same vein, these grants aim to increase security for families by improving education, the health system and providing basic, household utilities such as water.

Hena Pejdah
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Recovery of MogadishuAs demonstrated in How We Made it in Africa, the mention of the Somalia’s capital city Mogadishu, alluded to images of ruin and destruction due to the World War II aftermath. In 1991, the country’s longtime military leader, Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown, triggering a constant struggle over the control of Mogadishu for years to come.

The once beautiful city, filled with wide boulevards and Italianate colonial architecture had become divided among rival warlords. Government-built schools and hospitals became prime targets for looters bent on destroying all remaining vestiges of Siad Barre’s 22-year rule. For a long period of time, chaos and crime thrived in one of Africa’s most cherished cities.

However, when the militants were pulled out of the city in 2011, the reconstruction of Mogadishu began. According to the New York Times, the hammering sound of machine guns has now been replaced with the sound of construction demonstrating that the recovery of Mogadishu is well underway. New hospitals, homes, shops, hotels and bars are being built and life has emerged from the once decrepit city.

BBC acknowledges a wave of reconstruction, which is being led by Somali expats who have come back to invest in their homeland. Foreign investors are also providing capital toward the recovery of Mogadishu.

Mohamed Yusuf, director of Madina Hospital told  How We Made it in Africa that the city is like “a patient who was in a deep coma, and then suddenly he moves his fingers and opens his eyes. Now he is moving his limbs and unfolding his legs.”

Consequently, the outside world has noticed. In a recent survey of the world’s fastest-growing cities with a population of at least 1 million, the U.S.-based consulting firm Demographia ranked Mogadishu second on the list. Demographia estimated Mogadishu’s annual growth rate at 6.9 percent, due to the return of Somalis who have come home to explore investment opportunities following improvements in the city.

In Mogadishu, the central business district is once again a beehive of commercial activity. Somali singers just held their first concert in more than two decades at the National Theater, which formerly served as a weapons depot and a national lavatory.

Mogadishu has a bright and thriving future in the context of culture, enterprise and new markets.

Megan Hadley

Photo: Flickr

MogadishuLocated in a country right in the Horn of Africa, Mogadishu or Xamar, the capital of Somalia, is the largest city and seaport in the country. The city lies north of the equator on Somalia’s coast on the Indian Ocean.

Considering its location, it is not surprising that Mogadishu was Somalia’s major port for centuries and has since served as the commercial and financial center of the country. Previously known as the “White Pearl of the Indian Ocean,” the city has undergone much turmoil, given its conflicts between competing warlords and various militias until 2006.

Mogadishu started to expand steadily in 2010 with the election of a new technocratic government and the start of federal control of the city. In 2013, Mogadishu’s population was estimated to be around two million people.

At present, the people of Mogadishu can look back at the past and see how far their city has come — from the days of war, when women were forced to wear niqabs and children were not allowed to play football on the streets, to present times, when women can wear modern clothes under their abayas.

2016 is a very important year for the city of Mogadishu and Somalia as a whole because of its upcoming presidential election. This is not just an ordinary presidential election because this could be the first time a woman holds the top job in the country.

Somalia’s first female presidential candidate is Fadumo Dayib, the daughter of Somali parents who was born in Kenya but grew up in Somalia and Finland. Though Fadumo did not learn to read and write until the age of 14, she managed to earn a master’s degree in health care and public health.

During the time she worked with the United Nations, she realized her passion was to do more to help Somalians.

From the perspectives of Somalians like Fadumo from the diaspora, returning to their country, Mogadishu is growing very quickly. As described by Laila Ali in the Guardian, Mogadishu is becoming like “Manhattan or Central London…new buildings and businesses are emerging from the carnage and lawlessness that pervaded the East African country for more than two decades.”

Mogadishu is rising from the dust after 23 years of conflict and is growing at a rate of 6.9 percent as the world’s second fastest growing city. Despite its horrid past, this “White Pearl of the Indian Ocean” is surely making steps in the right direction due to an improvement in its security situation and economic pursuits.

Vanessa Awanyo

Sources: Nations Online, The Guardian 1, BBC, Fortune of Africa, The Guardian 2
Photo: Flickr

street_children
For the residents of Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital and largest city, it is not uncommon to see clusters of unaccompanied children gathering by coffee shops, theaters and restaurants. Often, they carry rags and polish to make quick money cleaning windshields and shining shoes.

These kids are not only just astray from parents, but have made makeshift homes on the inhospitable tarmac of Mogadishu’s dense urban grid. Sadly, the sight of these street children is just an accustomed part of life in the capital.

These children live their lives in tight competition, sometimes lining up in front of mosques 20 strong to scrub shoes for a mere $0.10 a piece at most. Yet, without any main provider, guardian or parent, it is all they can hope for.

In 2008, estimates placed the total amount number of street children at over 5,000. However, in 2011, Somalia experienced its worst famine in over 60 years, which decimated the livestock and the crops of numerous families. This left many parents without their livelihoods or a means of supporting for their children. Consequentially, more kids flocked to the streets in search of money.

Recent estimates have shown that in just three years, the number of street children in Somalia more than doubled; in 2011, 5,000 had expanded to an excess of 11,000.

This total is only predicted to increase.

Ironically, a Somali bill aimed at ending the recruitment of child soldiers is expected to exasperate the problem; often an unfortunate escape route for impoverished youth, child soldiering keeps children off the street.

While helping to eradicate child soldiering, this bill does nothing to provide former child soldiers with support or assistance that could help them assimilate back into their communities. Many inevitably will end up on the streets.

Escaping child soldiering is just one of many causes that lead children to take to the streets. Some street children simply have no other option but to live on the streets. They may have been abandoned by their family or indeed have no family.

Others may have a home to stay in but spend days and some nights in the streets. Often, this is due to overcrowding in the home or sexual and physical mistreatment. Others still may actually live on the streets with their entire family after losing a home to natural disaster, destitution or conflict.

These various children all share one common issue however; they struggle to obtain even the most basic and due rights. According to a UN report, “In reality, children in street situations are deprived of many of their rights – both before and during their time on the streets – and while on the street, they are more likely to be seen as victims or delinquents than as rights holders.”

Unlike other children their age, street children lack access to basic services such as education, healthcare and are more susceptible to prevalent social and health issues. They experience higher rates of STDs, HIV/AIDS, unwanted pregnancies, and violence, suicide and traffic accidents.

In 2011, UNICEF conducted a study on street children in Ukraine that produced shocking results. More than a fifth had reported using injected drugs and close to two thirds of girls had experience with prostitution. Only a measly 13 percent used condoms in their casual sexual encounters.

These issues require more government and NGO involvement and the implementation of child protection services. Various countries in disparate regions have all found solutions that provide street children with the rights deprived of them.

In Ethiopia, Somalia’s African neighbor, UNICEF has partnered with the country’s police academy in order to train 36,000 officers about children’s rights and protection. Other countries like Brazil, India and Canada have implemented small scale interventions that provide community based support to those on the streets.

Somalia itself has indicated its desire to expand resources for the street children that crowd its capital. Mohamed Abdullahi Hasan, the Somali minister of youth and sports, told Al Jazeera “We are trying to create centers to house these children. But we have no funds. On many occasions we have been promised funds, but we have not yet seen any.” Until Somalia recovers from its national turmoil, it will struggle to improve the lives of its youngest citizens.

Andrew Logan

Sources: Al Jazeera, The Gaurdian, WHO, libdoc.who.int, United Nations
Photo: Flickr

According to a United Nations report released on July 27, malnutrition in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, has reached alarming numbers.

Aid agencies in the region are incapable of meeting the needs of 350,000 malnourished people due to insufficient funds, recent drought and conflict.

The Somali government is comparing the crisis to a 2011 famine that killed approximately 260,000 people.

“Alarming rates of malnutrition have been observed among displaced communities in Mogadishu,” said the report by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs released over the weekend.

Somalia’s malnutrition rates actually hit a low point just last year, after the rebuilding and humanitarian aid  that followed the 2011 famine. Today, nearly one-third of Somalia’s population is considered “stressed,” meaning their food security remains fragile. Citizens in this classification struggle to meet minimal food requirements for their families and remain vulnerable in times of famine or environmental crises that may result in more food insecurity.

As of last year, more than 200,000 children under the age of 5 were malnourished. Many impoverished families in Somalia rely on cereal stocks and crops which suffer tremendously when the nation experiences periods of very little rain. Many poor households choose to use their incomes to purchase water during dry seasons, which means children and other members of these households become more malnourished during droughts.

The U.N. in part blames the unstable, impoverished conditions in Somalia caused by decades of fighting and conflict in the country. Most recently, Al Shabaab rebels, who look to topple the Western-backed government of Somalia and impose their own strict Islamic laws, staged a series of attacks in Mogadishu during the month of Ramadan, which ends this week.

Because of this continuing conflict and the recent drought, the report said that food shortages were expected to worsen in the south and southeast of the country.

“The humanitarian community is mobilizing resources to address the serious situation, but the significant shortfall in funding for humanitarian activities has undermined the capacity to respond,” said the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report regarding the recent crisis in Mogadishu.

Earlier this year, after the Al Shebaab rebel attacks, African Union forces launched a new campaign to drive the militants out of Somali towns and cities. Many citizens fled their homes during outbreaks of fighting. One major obstacle for aid organizations and convoys is reaching newly retaken towns with supplies and food for the malnourished.

The U.N. has allocated approximately $21 million in emergency funds to support humanitarian aid and rebuilding in Somalia. They have also allotted some funding to fight a recent outbreak of measles in the country.

OCHA estimates that it will need around $933 million for relief work this year. The money will pay for food, health care services and basic education for children.

– Paige Frazier 

Sources: Reuters, The Daily Star, Relief Web
Photo: Disasters Emergency Committee

famine in somalia
In 2011, the United Nations declared a famine in numerous parts of Somalia. The 2011 famine in Somalia took the lives of 260,000 due to malnutrition, hunger and disease. Aid organizations are warning that signs of a drought are resurfacing in Somalia and cautioning that these signs cannot be ignored.

Thanks to improving conditions in Somalia, the people in need of aid has decreased from 4 million to 2.9 million. Yet, the improved situation is now at risk of relapsing because of high food prices, inadequate funding, lack of a rainy season, displacement and conflict.

Fighting between Shebab militants, international forces and the government have driven thousands to Mogadishu, where the displaced civilians live in makeshift housing.

There are still about 2.9 million people in need of live-saving assistance as well as over 300,000 malnourished children in Somalia. The number will probably increase as conditions worsen. Aid agencies are requesting immediate support in the next few months to avoid a relapse to the 2011 famine in Somalia.

Without immediate funding, aid programs could be shut down, even despite the rise of famished people in the conflict-ridden country. The 1.1 million internally displaced people would be hit the hardest.

In 2011, it took 16 warnings and a declaration of famine before sufficient funding was made available. This time, eight warnings of a probable famine in Somalia have been released since January 2014. Earlier in July, the United Nations warned that the food crisis was expected to escalate into the “emergency phase” in Mogadishu, one phase below famine.

It is essential that leaders continue to support humanitarian and developmental work in Somalia by providing sufficient funding.

Director of Somalia NGO Consortium, Tanja Schuemer, stated that the improvements made since 2011 cannot be lost due to the world losing interest in Somalia as a priority.

“Most affected people are still recovering from the massive losses of the 2011 drought and famine. This time, we must not fail the people of Somalia,” states Francois Batalingaya, World Vision’s Country Director for Somalia.

– Colleen Moore

Sources: Norwegian Refugee Council, Cross Map, Rappler
Photo: News

When most people consider Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, they often associate the city with piracyterrorism, or instability. However, after a long history of violence and political volatility, Mogadishu is actually on an upswing. This is not to say that all of the problems plaguing Mogadishu in recent years have been solved, but there is slow and steady progress being made since the injection of foreign aid.

  1. Somalia has been a war-torn nation since 1991 and has been called the most unstable nation according to the Failed States Index. As the capital of Somalia, Mogadishu was no exception. During this period of political instability, it suffered greatly economically. Makeshift camps were set up throughout Mogadishu, and many of the city’s buildings, universities, schools, and colleges were also transformed into refugee camps.
  2. Evidence of the violence in the country can be seen throughout Mogadishu. As a result of the political instability, there are hundreds of military checkpoints throughout the city and many of the buildings are pock-marked from machine gun fire.. Also, even though the Bakara market thrives as an economic center of the city, those who can afford to shop there usually have to hire armed escorts to protect them just to browse the shop’s offerings.
  3. However, in late 2012, Somalia achieved a huge success by having its first election since the start of the civil war, ending the rule of an unstable interim government. Additionally, a new and widely praised constitution was put in place. Although the civil war continues to rattle the nation, the effects of Somalia’s newly achieved political prosperity has had a substantial impact on Mogadishu’s economy. In fact, as a sign of good faith in the nation’s new direction, USAID has announced plans to allocate an additional $20 million in development aid to Somalia. This aid includes building solar-powered lights in Mogadishu.
  4. Mogadishu’s economy is booming in 2013. The city once known for violence is now known for its rampant construction and expansion.  Besides the real estate market, the telecommunications and agricultural industries have been thriving as well. The money that USAID has been investing in Mogadishu in recent years has had a major impact.
  5. Mogadishu’s success has been so dramatic that it may someday become a tourist hotspot. Because of the returning diaspora of Somalis who wish to aid the city’s development now that it is much safer, hotels and beach resorts are already underway under the advisement of ambitious Somali businessmen.

– Sagar Desai

Sources: BBC, The Borgen Project
Photo: CNN

Is Somalia the Next Tourist Hotspot?
Business is booming in Mogadishu, the capital of war-torn Somalia. This economic renaissance of sorts might come as a surprise considering the recent history of the nation, which has suffered from political instability and terrorist insurgency for the past twenty years.

However, after the people of Somalia elected their own president to represent them just last year, the economy of the nation has already shown considerable signs of steady improvement. On top of this, Somalia’s recently adopted provisional constitution, which has been praised as “one of the top legal documents in the world,” has had a powerful impact on the Somalian economy as well. According to many Somalian businessmen, peace inevitably leads to prosperity.

Bashir Osman, a real estate developer, knows that he took a huge risk by buying land for a luxury beach resort in Mogadishu, but he also is very confident that his investment will pay off. “[The tourists] were so excited when they saw how Mogadishu looks like, how beautiful city we have, how beautiful beach we have and that is what we want to show them again and again,” Osman tells.

Many believe that the economic resurgence in Somalia is not only because of businessmen like Osman but also because of the diaspora returning to rebuild the country. Somalian citizens who escaped the country to avoid the violence and political upheaval that plagued the last two decades are now coming back to reshape Mogadishu and other major cities.

The recent success of Somalia’s economy is not only found in the real estate sector but also in the telecommunications and aviation industry, further facilitating Mogadishu as a tourist hotspot. The nation’s economy is supported by aid from donor governments; Somalia’s pending success story is a testament to the vitality of these programs.

– Sagar Desai
Sources: Xinhua, CNN
Photo: Go Africa